Saturday, September 14, 2002

E-mail angers Covington mayor

City blamed for TANK reductions

By Cindy Schroeder,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — Mayor Butch Callery criticized Kenton County Judge-executive Dick Murgatroyd this week for blaming the City of Covington for TANK service cuts that take effect today.

        In a letter to Mr. Murgatroyd, Mr. Callery said a recent e-mail the judge sent a disgruntled bus rider wrongfully implied the City of Covington was responsible for reductions in TANK bus routes. The reductions include the elimination of five routes, less frequent service on five other routes, and the elimination of parts of many other bus routes in Kenton, Boone and Campbell counties.

        “I was upset because I thought it was unnecessary to even mention us,” Mr. Callery said. “The City of Covington had nothing to do with the decrease in services.”

        Mr. Callery suggested that Mr. Murgatroyd “refrain from blaming Covington for TANK's ills” and instead “put pressure on the TANK board to revisit the route cuts.”

        Mr. Murgatroyd said Friday he plans to meet with TANK officials again to express his concerns about the service cuts. However, he said the county budget has very little discretionary money and neither he nor his fellow Kenton Fiscal Court members “can tell TANK what to do.”

        In his e-mail, Mr. Murgatroyd referred to a lawsuit that the City of Covington and Corporex Cos. filed last year, challenging an increase in the county payroll tax cap that took effect on Jan. 1, 2001. Last year, a Kenton Circuit Court judge ruled that Covington taxpayers could offset their county payroll tax increase through a credit for taxes paid to the city. Kenton Fiscal Court appealed, but refunded the disputed portion of the tax earlier this year.

        “Due to the lawsuit filed by the City of Covington which affected our ability to collect additional fees the budget for TANK will be approximately $1.2 million dollars short just from our county this year,” Mr. Murtatroyd wrote.

        Mr. Murgatroyd said Friday he wasn't trying “to make (Mayor Callery) the bad guy, but he added “facts are facts.”

        Mr. Callery disagreed.

        “First, the lawsuit did not result in the county having less money for TANK,” Mr. Callery said. “Kenton County is still collecting the TANK tax just the way it did before the lawsuit. The lawsuit does negate a tax increase, but the county repeatedly stated that the increased revenue was going to be used for the jail expansion — not for TANK.”

        Mr. Murgatroyd disputed that account. Had the county been able to go through with the payroll tax increase, he said it would have brought in another $1.2 million for TANK. That additional money would have freed up general-fund revenues then being used for county road projects for a new or expanded jail.

        Mr. Callery also said that Kenton County did not “short” TANK. Instead of the 24 percent increase that TANK had sought, Kenton county approved an 8 percent hike, he said.


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