A $5,000 budget amendment to support a project of Downtown Morehead Inc., triggered comments from Rowan County Fiscal Court members about how such changes should be handled in the future.

Tony Pence, DMI manager, presented the project “Vision Morehead” at the regular meeting on Tuesday. The project is to help with the long-term planning of downtown.

Pence said last year that City Council, St. Claire Regional, Morehead State University and Morehead Tourism each provided an additional $5,000 to DMI to hire a company to do planning.

“This coming year we are asking for the same contribution to do the study with Commonwealth Economics to lay out a tax increment financing (TIF) district,” Pence said. “This would help with the preliminary steps to see where we stand with the city and county about moving the TIF district forward. This is to literally develop an incentive program so we don't have to give land to someone or worry about tax abatement.”

Pence said both St. Claire and the city have agreed to contribute the additional funds and he's still waiting on Tourism and MSU.

“I make a motion that we give the additional funds so we can partner with others in the community,” said Judge-Executive Walter Blevins. “It's a worthwhile project and it's valuable to our citizens.”

Magistrate Stanley Messer seconded the motion before Magistrate Darrell Glover questioned where the funds would come from.

Blevins said the county has $2.1 million in carryover that could be used.

“I'm not against this project in anyway but we won't have that carryover if we keep doing this,” Glover said.

Blevins responded, “There are some things we need to be investing in”.

Magistrate Charlie Winkleman recommended that after the budget for the next fiscal year has been passed that the county be very cautious about what they spend.

“I think after we make our budget we should cut back on what we give out,” Winkleman said. “Unless it's an emergency, of course.”

During discussion, County Treasurer Michele Jessee provided the Court a suggestion that could help solve issues like this in the future.

“You have to always keep in mind that just because you have a cash balance, it doesn't mean you have available appropriations,” Jessee said. “You still have to try to stay in line with the line items in your budget.”

“In other words, it has to come from somewhere,” Glover said. “The reason that carryover is in there is because we've been very conservative. We've tried to save whenever we can. The way we are spending now it is just not going to work. I know it's not a lot of money in the big scheme of things, but every meeting we are throwing money out to whomever comes in here. We can't do that. I wish we had the money to, I really do.”

Jessee said this money would come from the $25,000 in reserves set for line items.

“In other words, we've already spent a fifth of that reserve money and we haven't even started the fiscal year,” Glover said.

When it came time for the funds to be voted on, Glover abstained, Winkleman voted no and Blevins and Messer voted yes. Magistrate Ray White was absent.

County Attorney Cecil Watkins said the 2-1 vote passes the order due to Glover's abstention.

“The reason I voted for this is because I feel if other agencies in the community are buying into it, so should we,” said Messer. “I know it may be hard on us but I feel like we should do our part.”

Brad Stacy can be reached at bstacy@themoreheadnews.com or by telephone at 784-4116.

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