WEBSTER COUNTY, Ky. (6/19/13) - As people across the country and Webster County struggle to survive in tough financial times, many people have questioned the creation of Providence’s 3% tourism tax, which has now been on the books for two years, and the tourism board that governs the collected monies. Who are these people? What do they do?
Local attorney Ben Leonard, a member of the board attempted to explain the board and their purpose in a conversation earlier this week.
According to Leonard, KRS 91A.400 says that a city “may levy an additional restaurant tax not to exceed three percent (3%) of the retail sales by all restaurants doing business in the city.” That is exactly what the Providence council did in the summer of 2011. Mayor Eddie Gooch then appointed seven local volunteers to the tourism board.
The 3% tax is added on top of the 6% sales tax established by the state of Kentucky, meaning anyone who buys prepared food within the city limits is paying a 9% sales tax.
The tourism tax is collected quarterly, and paid directly to the city of Providence by local restaurants.
“The City of Providence then deposits the funds into the bank account (at Independence Bank),” Leonard said. “The bank statements go to the City of Providence as well. The checks associated with this account are maintained at City Hall. The tourism board is not involved at all with the collection or deposit of any funds received associated with the tourism tax.”
When funds are paid out of the account, three signatures are required on the check. Of the three, only one of them is actually on the tourism board, Providence resident Carol Hill. The other two belong to Mayor Eddie Gooch and City Clerk Kay Travis.
Leonard said that the board is tasked with promoting recreation, convention, and tourist activity in Providence.
“The tourism board’s primary purpose centers on approving expenditures from the tourism funds to promote the aforementioned purposes,” he explained. “Some examples of expenditures approved by the board have included: flowers for downtown; payment for fuel charge for the rides at the coal festival; payment for the band at the coal festival; payment for paint and pavers for the downtown area on the corner for improved appearance; payment for cameras for the City Park to improve safety and increase usage; payment for improvements to the municipal golf course; sponsorship of car shows; payment for fireworks and bands for the July 4th celebration; approval of resurfacing the track (at the city park); and approval of expenditures on an annual fall festival that features bands, vendors and other activities.”
Currently the board consists of Jennifer Gobin, Carol Hill, Stephanie Cross, Kathryn Turner, Mary Powell, and Ben Leonard. City councilman Doug Hammers was on the board until he won his race for the council in November.
“We have regular meetings that are always open to the public on the third Wednesday of even numbered months (February, April, June, August, October, December) at 4:30 p.m. at Leonard Law Firm, 508 East Main Street, Providence, KY 42450,” Leonard said.
As of Monday June 17, 2013, the Providence Tourism Board had $228,445.57 in their account.
J-E News Editor
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