Coal Counties Frustrated They’re Funding Rupp Renovations
Coal producing counties in eastern Kentucky say they’re cutting their budgets, because they aren’t getting what they used to from coal. So, they’re wondering why the state is sending $2.5 million from coal money to Lexington.
Letcher County Judge Executive Jim Ward says his county has lost 1,500 coal jobs in the last year and a half.
We’ve had to cut our sanitation. We’ve had to cut our Sheriff’s Department," said Ward.
Those are just some of the cuts. Ward says he wants the county to expand its economy.
"We need more, and we’re going to have to find some way to replace the coal mining jobs that we don’t have now," said Ward.
That’s where the money comes in. Ward says Letcher County needs the coal funds to build infrastructure. Without it?
"Good possibility that we’re not going to be able to attract any other type of business," said Ward.
The state taxes every ton of coal mined. It’s called a severance tax.
"It’s severed, it’ll never come back," said Ward.
The coal doesn’t come back, but the some of the money does. It comes back from what’s called the Multi-County Fund, and the state decided to take money from that accounty, and use it for renovations at Rupp Arena.
"I would like to see that money come from another source, and let us use that severance money that should come to us anyway," said Ward.
Governor Beshear’s office says he wanted the money to come from bonds, and the legislature made the change.
Speaker Stumbo says there was no other money.
"Though Rupp is not in the coal fields, many believe it plays an important role in the state, because of the tradition of the University of Kentucky basketball program, and there is strong alumni support in our region as well," said Stumbo.
The Lexington Mayor’s office says it’s thankful for the money.
“We greatly appreciate the funding for Rupp Arena. Rupp is used now, and will be used in the future, by thousands of people from coal counties. It’s a facility that benefits the entire state,” said Spokeswoman Susan Straub.
The state reports its coal severance revenue is down 23% from this time last year.