Calloway Co. Fiscal Court Urges Murray City Council to Consider Referendum on Payroll Tax

Jul 18, 2017

Calloway County Judge Executive Larry Elkins
Credit Matt Markgraf, WKMS

Update: Murray Mayor Jack Rose on Wednesday, he said he had "no comment" with regards to the resolution in a follow-up on Wednesday.   

The Calloway County Fiscal Court approved a resolution Tuesday night calling for the Murray City Council to place the proposed occupational - or payroll - tax on the ballot in the next general election.

The resolution says a payroll tax would “drastically increase” an “already-heavy tax burden” and lead to a decline or reversal of growth. (Read the resolution below)

Citing a Kentucky statute, it called on the city council to pass a resolution allowing citizens to form a petition committee for a ballot measure in the next general election. The petition would need signatures from at least 20% of registered voters in the city who cast ballots in the last presidential election.

Elkins expressed frustration during the meeting that members of the fiscal court weren’t “invited” to participate in the discussion. “You would think if nothing else but common courtesy that city officials would reach out to county government and at least issue an invitation to participate in the process,” he said.

Murray City Council member John Mark Roberts stated opposition to the payroll tax during the fiscal court meeting.
Credit Matt Markgraf, WKMS

Murray City Council member John Mark Roberts spoke in opposition to the payroll tax from the audience.

Mayor’s Committee to Review Needs, Expenditures and Revenue Sources chair Dan Miller has said a payroll tax will bring in more revenue than city stickers and excess funds would go towards roads improvements and police pay.

“There are a lot of expenses that folks that live outside the city cost the city of Murray that they aren’t really paying for, except the $50 city sticker, which is not enough,” Miller has said.

According to the Murray Calloway County Chamber of Commerce the Mayor's Committee drafted a recommendation to adopt a 1% occupational tax while lowering various property tax and insurance premium taxes.

While not taking a formal position city council member Wesley Bolin took to Facebook to answer several questions he says he has received regarding the tax. He linked to a Kentucky League of Cities document showing a comparative analysis of cities with payroll taxes along with property and insurance tax rates.

Calloway County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Aaron Dail speaks from the audience during the meeting. The Chamber released a statement earlier Tuesday opposing the tax.
Credit Matt Markgraf, WKMS

Some prominent members of the community have come out in opposition to the tax, including Murray State President Bob Davies as well as Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Aaron Dail in a letter issued earlier Tuesday. A Change.org petition opposing the tax has more than 2,700 votes.

A vote on the payroll tax nearly came to fruition in 2016. Mayor Jack Rose said then that changes to the city's tax code should be revenue neutral and the tax would coincide with abolishing city stickers on vehicles and lowering insurance and property tax.

Mayor Jack Rose did not immediately provide comment Tuesday night. On Wednesday, Rose said he has "no comment."

The committee will present their argument for the payroll tax at a city council meeting on July 27. The measure may or may not come up for a vote during that meeting.

Text of approved resolution. (The signatures space cropped at the bottom)
Credit Matt Markgraf, WKMS

This story has been updated.