Across the Commonwealth, communities are facing historic challenges to maintaining their infrastructure and public facilities while also providing essential services. Our bridges, roads and sewers have fallen into disrepair. Police and fire officials are using outdated equipment and buildings. And our libraries and recreation facilities must find new ways to do more with less. At the same time, state and federal funding for local projects has diminished, shifting even more of the financial burden to municipalities.
Our challenges in Princeton are typical of those faced by many Kentucky communities. The city’s current firehouse, for example, is in dire condition. Built in the 1940s, the former car showroom houses fire trucks and equipment worth more than $3 million. Yet, the ceiling is failing, and the building has flooded at least once. The building is in such poor condition that a .4 earthquake (something we’re prone to in our region) would easily topple it. Replacing the firehouse would cost nearly $2.5 million.
Beyond addressing essential safety services, Princeton is also facing issues that impact the quality-of-life within the community. Leaks in the public swimming pool forced its closure last summer impacting numerous families who enjoy this popular amenity. The pool also provides funding for Princeton’s community parks so the closure impacted at least 20 employees.
Whether it’s building a new firehouse or repairing the public pool, a local option sales tax in Kentucky would provide municipalities with an economic development tool for special projects within their communities. Despite their importance, local improvement projects often languish from lack of funding. Unlike the federal government, cities and counties must balance a budget. Most municipalities take a conservative financial outlook and avoid incurring debt while also maintaining emergency funds. The local option would give Kentucky communities the ability to address much needed improvements while being fiscally responsible. Local option funds do not go into a city’s general budget. Once a project is completed, the local option ends but the benefits continue.
Cities are very good at determining what they need. The local option would provide municipalities with the tools to address those needs. I urge the Kentucky General Assembly to allow Kentuckians to vote on a constitutional amendment that would give communities the right to consider the option.
Mayor Gale Cherry is a native Princetonian and graduate of Caldwell County High School, Western Kentucky University, and the University of Louisville. After more than a decade of community service, Mayor Cherry was sworn into her first term as Mayor of Princeton in January 2007. As part of her many accomplishments aimed at improving the quality-of-life in the city, Mayor Cherry has increased job opportunities and achieved national recognition for innovative community development initiatives.