LETTER: Buyer beware

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By The Staff

Caveat Emptor. In case you missed Latin class that day, it means “Let the Buyer Beware”. Spencer County, you better beware in regard to the statements being made to you by the proponents of alcohol sales. When I look at the promises being made about economic prosperity for Spencer County, I am reminded of the Wendy’s commercials of several years ago. The little old lady orders her sandwich and after she gets it, she screams, “Where’s the Beef!!!!” We have been told that the county will be prosperous, but none of the proponents have been willing to step forward and give us some hard numbers on what we can expect. At the April meeting of the EDA, I asked a few questions till I was told they were not there to answer questions. Later, the people who attended the meeting were told that all of the questions asked that night would be answered later. I am still waiting for my answers so I have been studying this issue on my own. After 5 months of research, I truly understand why the proponents of alcohol sales are unwilling to participate in a public forum.  The numbers don’t work.

At the September 21 meeting of Fiscal Court, I asked if they were planning on putting a tax on the sale of alcohol if the county votes to go wet. Judge Jenkins and Magistrate Henry both stated that they had researched this matter and that the county would not be allowed to tax the sale of packaged liquor. It was mentioned that the tourism commission could possibly put a restaurant and alcohol tax on. As a former chairman of the Tourism Commission, I knew that this could not happen at this time. Unless a county has a city of at least the 4th class, they cannot implement this tax. The city of Taylorsville only recently became a 5th class city and the population would have to increase a whole lot to make this happen. When the petition was first circulated, the supporters included a fact sheet with details on what would happen. Let me share with you a statement from point 17 of their fact sheet, “The County and the City would each have the ability to impose a local tax as they see fit on the sale of any alcoholic beverage.” Based on what I was told at the Fiscal Court meeting, it appears that somebody has got their facts mixed up. If they can’t put a tax on alcohol, where will all the income to the county come from? There is our net business profit tax. I decided to do a little calculating and see what it would take to generate a $100,000 in income from the net profit tax from the 14 businesses that could be in the county. It would take $10 million in net profits to generate $100,000 in tax revenue. If there is a 20% profit margin on alcohol sales, it would take $50 million in alcohol sales each year. I don’t care which side of the issue that you are on, that would be a lot of booze flowing in Spencer County. Based on our current population, every man, woman and child including babies in Spencer County would have to purchase almost $3,000 per person of alcohol each year. That is a scary proposition, but I just don’t see this as even remotely realistic. Then, what could we expect to bring in? I have put a few numbers together for conversation.

Under state law, the most that could be charged for a package liquor license is $400 times seven possible stores. That’s $2,800. Based on my research, we could expect around $4,200 from the seven alcohol by-the- drink license fees. That’s a total of $7,000. Let’s be fair. There would be some net profit tax revenue. If the 14 possible businesses averaged a profit of $100,000 each “just on their alcohol sales”, that would bring in $14,000. If these stores employ an additional 50 people at $20,000 per year, that would generate $10,000 in county occupational taxes. Let’s assume that the wholesale vendors who deliver the alcohol to our community make a profit equal to the stores that sell it, that’s another $14,000. Put that together and you have a total of $45,000. That’s a nice sum, but would the county have any extra expense due to alcohol in the county? Yes. A local ABC officer’s salary plus office, vehicle, computers and benefits could easily cost the county $60,000. The current county budget has $274,000 budgeted for transporting prisoners, housing inmates and paying their medical expenses. Is it reasonable to assume that local alcohol sales in Spencer County would result in more crime? If we just have a 10% increase in costs, that’s $27,400 per year. Would we need more police? The costs of adding just one officer when you consider salary, benefits, hazard duty pay, training and vehicles would be at least $75,000. If there are more accidents due to alcohol, there would be more ambulance and fire department runs. These expenses could be substantial easily bring the total extra expenses from having alcohol sales in Spencer County to around $200,000 each year. In case you didn’t notice, there was not that much additional revenue. Do you have any thoughts on who will be paying to make up the difference? Take a good look in the mirror and ask yourself if the revenue to Spencer County from having alcohol sales is not enough to pay for all the extra expenses that would come about, would you be willing to subsidize the alcohol business in Spencer County with your hard-earned tax dollars?

I believe that it is vital for every citizen in our community to make an informed decision come Election Day. You don’t trust my figures. That’s fine, but take the time to do the research for yourself. There will be a community public forum on this issue set up for Thursday, October 8 at the Spencer County Middle School at 7 p.m. This would be a great opportunity to get some of your questions answered. It has been suggested that this venue will turn into a hostile shouting match between people from both sides of the issue. While I understand that this is an emotional issue for many, I have too much faith in the good people in our county that this forum will not get out of hand, so don’t be intimidated into not attending.

On October 20, Spencer County is being asked to make a decision on whether allowing alcohol sales are in our community’s best interest.  For some people, this is an issue about crime and safety. Did you know that in 2006 there were four precincts in west Louisville that voted to go back dry? Why did they make this decision? It was reported that it was due to the increased crime associated with alcohol sales in their community. For some, this is a moral issue. Each of you will have to decide that aspect of the decision for yourself.  Some of you will base your decision strictly on economics. If so, all I can ask is that you do your homework. Take the bun off the sandwich and decide for yourself if there is any beef to this proposal then go out and vote based on what you have discovered. Spencer County, don’t forget, “Let the Buyer Beware”.

James Allen Tipton