I read with great interest Steve Stewart’s column (“Danger signs for our government town,” July 24-26), but I see things from a slightly different viewpoint than his.
His thoughts on Frankfort’s dependency on the payroll taxes from state government employees should rightly sound alarm bells at City Hall. The annualized loss of $3 million from a $34 million general fund is a damaging blow to Frankfort.
But I think that this shortage may not be so great as foretold because many government workers will return to their offices in our town as the pandemic subsides. Many, but not all.
And while I agree with Stewart’s statement that the Franklin County Fiscal Court is making a mistake in cutting funding for the Kentucky Capital Development Corp., which is the primary attractor for manufacturing jobs in our community, there might be another long-term goal that the city and county should consider.
It’s common knowledge that the Chinese word for “crisis” translates into two words, “precarious” and “change-point.” That may be what Frankfort is facing with fewer people working in the city, which lessens the income from occupational taxes. But the second word is what catches my attention.
If more people work from homes in other towns and don’t pay occupational taxes in Frankfort, by the same token, other people are working from their homes in Frankfort and not showing up in their offices in Lexington and Louisville and Georgetown. And this represents the change-point in a longer view of teleworking.
Say the City Hall folks look to make Frankfort not a manufacturing hub, but instead a favored hometown for people who now live in Lexington and Louisville and are able to work from their homes. What person in their right mind would face the traffic and congestion and pollution and aggravation and claustrophobic apartment life of Louisville when they could live in small-town Frankfort and still keep their city jobs?
Who wouldn’t want a nicer home for their dollar, virtually no traffic issues, good restaurants, local breweries, city festivals from spring through the fall, a dynamic downtown and easy and rapid access to TWO excellent cities in either direction? Health care, educational opportunities from good school systems, a hometown university in KSU, excellent parks, varied entertainment, the coming riverfront development and the new city center at the former Capital Plaza location plus very friendly people, all here in little old Frankfort.
Let the city and county move to publicize these ideas and draw new people to Frankfort. Let new property tax incomes offset the loss of occupational taxes. Let them take this precarious time and make the most of this historic change-point. Don’t focus on what Frankfort is losing but rather on what it might gain.
John Arnett is a financial regulator in public service and a longtime coach for Frankfort Parks and Rec in the summer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org