An open letter to La Grange citizens

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An open letter to the citizens of La Grange:

On June 3, the La Grange City Council will hear and vote on the second reading of a 1 percent compensation tax that will give our city the ability to pull itself out of debt.

This new tax will only be used for the retirement of debt that was incurred by the purchase and past infrastructure needs of the 1,000-acre Oldham Reserve business park.

After the debt is retired, the tax will cease to exist and no longer be collected.

The City of La Grange borrowed $10 million to do this project approximately seven years ago with the idea that as the land was sold, the bonds would be paid down and retired.

Because of the recession we have all experienced in the last six years, only a small portion of the land has been sold to date and we have not been able to meet our financial obligations.

We are making payments on a little less than a third of the original bond debt in the amount of $180,000.00 a year.

The remaining plus two thirds of the debt have been recapitalized twice since its first inception, bringing that part to an amount over $8.1 million that will be due and payable in June 2015.

Since I have been in office, we have cut the number of employees, frozen hiring and reduced our general fund spending every year, while at the same time making our city a pleasant environment in which to work and live.

Today, because of this impending new 1 percent tax on workers, we have people who do not live in our city but work in our city telling us we should cut service to the ones who do live and pay taxes in our city.

They want us to give up our 14-man police department, cut the size of our seven-man public works department and cut the three-member office staff, which was reduced from five people when I took office.
Almost 85 percnt of the people who work in La Grange do not live in our city. A larger percentage pays no city property tax because they rent their homes.

Most do not even live in Oldham County.

They enjoy the same services as our many citizens every day they come into our city as workers.

We keep the streets clean. We keep the street lights burning. We remove the snow. We give them 24-hour police protection.

This year we have made sure that EMS keeps two ambulances inside our city and will be able to do so in the future.

As of last year, more than 212 cities and counties in Kentucky have an occupational or compensation tax ranging from 0.5 to 2 percent.

Some of the cities include Eminence, Shelbyville, Carrollton, Jeffersontown, St. Matthews and

We are one of the last cities our size in the state not to have enacted such an ordinance.

When I am interviewed by credit rating agencies for the purpose of the city's credit rating every year, they are amazed and dumbfounded La Grange does not have a compensation tax in place to pay our tremendous debt load.

If the city defaults on the payment of the bonds that are due in 2015, property taxes could go up 60 percent that year and remain at that level until the debt is paid.

That would add up to a total of 32 cents on each $100 of property value.

I think it is important to know that people who do not live in our city have told me that they would rather La Grange citizens pay more property tax, give up the police department and other necessary services so they can save the price of a cup of coffee, the price of a gallon of gas or the price of a Happy Meal every week.

I receive weekly calls from people inside and outside of our city telling me what a great job our police and public works departments do.

They comment on our beautiful parks. They comment on the cleanliness and welcoming atmosphere of our city.

I, for one, am not willing to give that up.

If we listen to the people who only take our services and refuse to give back or help pay for them, that is what could happen.

If you have questions, please come by City Hall. Our door is literally always open to the public.

You can also call me at 222-1433.

I am proud of the achievements our city has made in a short period of time.

Now is not the time to turn our backs on fiscal responsibility that should be shared by all who use and benefit from our city and the services we provide.

Bill Lammlein
Mayor, City of La Grange