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Coal baron’s companies owe $2.3M in taxes to poor Ky. county

October 26, 2019

INEZ, Ky. (AP) — Seven coal companies controlled by a former University of Kentucky trustee owe $2.3 million in overdue taxes to one of the state’s poorest counties.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reports James Booth acts as president or director of more than 30 companies in Kentucky, seven of which owe delinquent taxes in Martin County. All seven are tied to the coal industry, and each owes between $55,000 and $1.39 million to Martin County, which has made headlines in recent years for its failure to properly fund its sheriff’s office and water district.

Booth was a member of the UK Board of Trustees until earlier this year. He told the paper his companies simply don’t have enough money to pay taxes and keep the mines operating.

“We would have already paid (the taxes) if we could, and we will pay them. We’ll pay them as fast as we can,” he said.

Booth’s delinquent taxes would boost the local school system by $555,170. The state would receive more than $315,000, and the county government would get more than $101,000. The library and extension office would each receive more than $70,000.

County attorneys can sue for delinquent property taxes, but so far the county attorney’s office has not done so. Martin County Attorney Melissa Phelps, who took office after the 2018 election, declined to comment on Booth’s delinquent bills.

State Rep. Chris Harris, who represents Martin County, said there is no excuse for not paying.

“There’s a lot of need there for those funds,” the Forest Hills Democrat said.

Martin County Magistrate Jared Goforth said the county doubled its occupational tax rate this year to help fund the county’s roughly $6 million budget.

“I appreciate everything these companies do, providing jobs and all that, but your taxes got to be paid” he said. “I’m sure they could pay it easier than a lot of these people on fixed incomes.”

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Information from: Lexington Herald-Leader, http://www.kentucky.com