Futrell named Hopkinsville fire chief

Hopkinsville has a new property tax rate and a new fire chief after Tuesday night's city council meeting.

The 12-member council swiftly approved Steve Futrell as chief of Hopkinsville Fire Department and ambulance service, to which a packed crowd of firefighters and local residents gave a standing ovation.

Futrell thanked the council and the mayor for the appointment, then announced three new firefighters to the department: Rick Murray, Ryan McKnight and Eric Powell. Each new firefighter has completed the required 400 hours of training, Futrell noted.

After pinning and pictures, the crowd quickly cleared the room, leaving the council to approve on second reading to raise the property tax rate 4%.

Real property will now be taxed 23.9 cents on each $100 of taxable real property and 25.1 cents on each $100 of taxable personal property.

The vote passed 8-4, with council members Tom Johnson, Jimmy Dossett, Jason Bell and Terry Parker as the dissenting votes.

Johnson said he voted no because he believes the rate should have stayed at the same rate as last year or stuck to this year's compensating rate of 23.

"The rate last year was 23.1 and the compensating rate this year would've been 23, which is actually a decrease, to bring in the same amount of revenue," he said, "but the city and the administration felt it was needed to raise it."

Over the past few months, Hopkinsville Chief Financial Officer Robert Martin has said that the city needed to take the allowed 4% rate hike in order to keep up with increasing pension payments from the state. The 2019-2020 budget Martin and Mayor Carter Hendricks presented in June was based on the council approving the 4% increase. The council approved that budget.

"People have made the comment that it's only $8 (for taxpayers), but to me it doesn't matter the amount of money it is as a burden to you as a homeowner or a taxpayer," Johnson said. "To me, it's the principle that we should dig a little deeper internally to see where that money may come from."

Dossett said after the meeting he voted no because he believes there are too many tax raises being levied against local residents at one time.

"It seems like everybody is trying to raise taxes and I think we're just going overboard," Dossett said. "It's going to hurt everybody. The middle-class people, it's going to hurt them because you've got the school (nickel) tax coming up and this too. I mean they're just getting hit from every side."

This is the first time the council has voted to take the allowable 4% property tax rate increase in 10 years. The increase will be reflected on property tax bills that are sent out in October.

In other business:

*The council voted unanimously to increase the Hopkinsville Regional Airport Board to 10 members instead of six. Johnson said the increase is an effort to keep a quorum at those meetings.

*The council approved using $24,712 from the city's grant matching fund to match $247,120 from the Assistance to Firefighters Grant.

*Sen. Whitney Westerfield received the Kentucky League of Cities 2019 Friend of Cities Award.

Reach Zirconia Alleyne at 270-887-3243 or zalleyne@kentuckynewera.com.

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