Saturday, November 9, 2002

Ludlow likely to delay new tax



By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

LUDLOW - To avoid being a holiday Scrooge, Ludlow officials aren't expected to start collecting a voter-approved, special tax for fire and emergency medical services until early next year.

Ludlow City Council is expected to decide on Thursday when the newly approved tax will take effect and what the rate will be. If council gives its initial approval on Thursday, as expected, a final vote on the rate would occur at the Dec. 12 council meeting, and billing would probably start sometime after the first of the year, Ludlow Mayor Ed Schroeder said.

IF YOU GO
What: Meeting to set special property tax rate for Ludlow fire and emergency medical services, part of regular Ludlow City Council meeting
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
Where: Ludlow Senior Center, 808 Elm St.
Although the measure approved by voters allows Ludlow officials to set a maximum rate of $1.75 per $1,000 assessed property valuation, city officials can set a lower rate, if the projected budget for fire and life squad service justifies it.

However, if the city's financial picture changes in future years, Ludlow officials could seek a higher rate, up to the $1.75 per $1,000 assessed property valuation maximum, without having to go back to the voters for approval, the mayor said.

"We should have the first reading on (the special property tax) on Thursday night and pass the ordinance in December,'' Mr. Schroeder said. "By doing it that way, it would give people who had any questions or problems with the tax to come down to City Hall and discuss it and get a general idea of what it would cost them.''

On Tuesday,Ludlow voters agreed to allow the city to levy a special property tax to generate between $205,000 and $210,000 a year. The new tax will enable the city to hire paid firefighters and emergency medical technicians for the first time.

In the past, Ludlow has funded its fire and life squad service through a user fee. Ludlow homeowners paid $45 a year and businesses paid $150 annually.

However, on July 1, Ludlow stopped collecting its user fee for fire protection and emergency services, after the Kentucky Court of Appeals ruled in a recent case involving the city of Bromley that a user fee was unconstitutional.

The Bromley decision is being appealed.

With the new tax, the city will be able to hire two emergency medical technicians (EMTs) to serve Ludlow residents and businesses between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, allowing better service and faster response time.

"Volunteer (EMTs) feel that they'll be able to handle the nighttime coverage and weekends,'' Mr. Schroeder said. "It's the daytime hours during the week that are tough to cover.''

In the past, Ludlow officials have had to call in life squads from other cities, which can slow response times, Ludlow's mayor said.

On Monday, Mr. Schroeder, Ludlow Clerk/Treasurer Paul Weekley, and Charles Manning, the chairman of Ludlow City Council's finance committee, will meet to review recent fire department audits and decide what rate to recommend to council.

If Ludlow officials choose to levy the maximum allowed, it would cost the owner of a $66,697.92 home $116.72 a year, Mr. Weekley said.

For those on homestead exemption, the value of a typical home would be lowered to $60,730.79, which would cost $106.27 a year.

In each case, the homeowner would no longer have to pay the $45 user fee for fire protection and emergency medical services.

E-mail cschroeder@enquirer.com




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