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Reaching a tipping point; Population growth across Georgetown has drawbacks

Posted at 6:35 PM, Feb 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-18 18:43:56-05

GEORGETOWN, Ky. (LEX 18) — Georgetown Mayor Tom Prather spent a full year working on a study, which would serve to compare how his city is doing financially in relation to 18 others of its kind. Some of the answers came as a shock.

“The extent to which residential growth has outpaced job growth was shocking to us,” Prather said.

Prather also noticed that while his population is booming, he has many people coming in to town for work before going home to other cities like Lexington. While many have moved to Georgetown after accepting employment with Toyota - the city’s largest employer - many still make the commute each day.

“65 percent of people who are employed in Georgetown, live outside of Georgetown,” Prather noted.

Prather doesn’t take that personally, but he does miss the payroll tax revenue he could be collecting. A tax, which by the way, is already very low at 1% which creates a difference of roughly 2.5 million dollars between Georgetown and other cities similar in size.

The big one, however, is the property tax rate across Scott County which is incredibly low given all that the city has to offer.

“We rank 395th out of 405 cities in property tax rate,” Prather said.

That rate stands at 63 cents for every $100, or $630 annually per $100,000 in assessed value. It’s not a lot to ask of most anyone who can afford the mortgage payments on a home. That amount makes it virtually impossible to properly fund public services, such as fire and police. Right now the city has four police officers working the overnight shift for all of Georgetown.

Georgetown Assistant Chief of Police Robert Swanigan declined comment for this story, deferring to the Mayor. Prather knows just how strapped they are in that department.

“It adds stress to their job,” he said. “If you’re going to wear the label of the fastest growing city in Kentucky, then you have a responsibility to meet basic service requirements for your citizens,” he continued.

So far those have been met. The city can always call in help from Scott County when needed. Often times, they do.

“Whoever is closest, will respond to that fire” Prather said.

But for how long can Georgetown operate like a small city when it is currently Kentucky’s seventh largest (just behind Richmond) and growing?

“There’s a day of reckoning, and I do believe there’s a tipping point,” he said.

That’s usually what happens when too many jump on at once.