The budget presentation for the Kentucky Lake Convention and Visitor’s Bureau is an annual, typically uneventful agenda item that turned into a dressing-down during last week’s meeting when Marshall County Judge-Executive Kevin Neal told the director they hadn’t been properly collecting transient room tax dollars.
Kentucky Lake CVB Executive Director Randy Newcomb presented a budget for the fiscal year 2020, which he said his board had voted to approve two weeks prior. He noted the total projected income was just over $402,000 with the projected expenditure exactly the same; $314,250 of the projected income was expected to be collected as transient room tax; approximately $130,000 of the expenditures were for advertising; the gross salaries for the CVB employees decreased due to the increased amount which must be set aside for retirement.
But Newcomb didn’t receive approval, he received a scolding instead as Neal said while the CVB is supposed to submit monthly reports to the county treasurer’s office, they’ve not received one since June 2018 “so we don’t have any numbers that have been reported for this fiscal year.” Neal went on to say he was uncomfortable with approving the CVB’s proposed budget without seeing this numbers.
Newcomb said the projected numbers on the proposed budget he presented were based exactly on the numbers from the current fiscal year and didn’t project any increases at all. He also said the reason those numbers hadn’t been submitted to the fiscal court is because his office was doing the collections and reporting internally, per the agreement with former Marshall County Treasurer Emily Martin Wiles. He said there were a number of issues when the treasurer’s office was in charge of collections and while it wasn’t based on poor performance by Wiles or her employees, there “was a disconnect.”
“We would get money in but we didn’t know who it was coming from…it was a way for us to keep tabs and keep Emily from having to chase people down [when they were delinquent on payment],” he explained.
Newcomb went on to say conducting collections internally has saved his department $2,500 annually (which is what they were having to pay the treasurer’s office) and his employee who has been in charge of collections has actually been able increase the dollars collected because she’s dedicated to that one task.
But Neal said it wasn’t within the former treasurer’s authority to make such a deal with the CVB, and said Kentucky Revised Statutes are “clear in how the money is supposed to be collected.” He said the statute is clear in that “all things go through the fiscal court and before we make a decision on the budget, we need to see the numbers.” He went on to say if there had been a discrepancy, “those are serious implications and situations and it protects everyone involved if it comes through the fiscal court and the right way.”
Newcomb said the CVB wanted to be compliant and would submit the numbers requested immediately following the meeting. He also said he will coordinate with the treasurer’s office to work out the details of the transition of information and payments from the various hotels and resorts.
The fiscal court members are expected to revisit the matter during the June 18 meeting.
In other business:
• Marshall County E-911 Director Chris Freeman received approval to submit $200,000 worth of grants to Frankfort, which he said he would hand deliver that afternoon. He said the radio consoles currently used are “obsolete” and there’s a tower on the south end of the county that’s supposed to be part of the system but hasn’t been located, which results in several “dead zones” where first responders have trouble communicating with dispatchers. He noted the danger of that situation saying, “Sometimes you only get one change to holler, ‘Help,’ on the radio.” Marshall County Sheriff Eddie McGuire said, “We’ve played Russian roulette for the last 10-11 years hoping nothing happens, praying no one loses their life.” Freeman said if awarded the $200,000 in grants, that should cover creating a safer system for the officers and first responders while working toward other upgrades. He said the grants will be awarded in July and funds distributed around mid-Aug. If Marshall County’s 911 receives the grants requested, they should be able to have the improvements complete by the end of the year.
• The fiscal court members delayed the decision of selecting the sole bidder for the taxpayer location and collection services. Deputy Judge-Executive Brad Warning said Avenue Insights and Analytics included references from Warren County and his concern was ensuring that the county would be in charge of collecting the money owed instead of the service. Commissioner Monti Collins asked if the 40% charge for the dollars uncovered is a rate that would remain consistent for as long as the county utilized their service, or if that was just for the first year. Commissioner Kevin Spraggs said he was concerned with the lack of the phrase, “when collected,” and wanted to ensure the county wouldn’t be responsible for dollars “uncovered” but never collected, which would result in the county losing money. Spraggs also wanted County Attorney Jason Darnall to closely review the document before the fiscal court members made any final decisions. Warning said he would gather more information. They’re expected to discuss it again at the June 18 meeting.
• The fiscal court members ceased discussion of changing the speed limit on Red River Road when Marshall County Roads Superintendent Wendy Greer said the petitioner had rescinded his petition. She said he told her he “didn’t mean to stir a hornets nest with his neighbors.”
• Marshall County Parks Director Britney Heath said she’s received confirmation the Miracle League of Western Kentucky is officially in Marshall County and the process of becoming a 501c3 nonprofit is almost complete. She said the ‘Jail and Bail’ fundraising event is going well, reporting 20 people were confirmed for “arrest” on June 28 when they will be locked up on the courthouse lawn, wearing inmate uniforms and doing what they can to bring in donations for their release. She said she’s also put together a sponsorship packet and has been in negotiations with a sponsor for naming rights of the field and playground, which would bring in $400,000 toward the $1 million goal.