Covington expands recreational programming, CGN to manage program, Mayor sounds off on taxes

By Ryan Clark
NKyTribune reporter

COVINGTON – It’s time for residents to come out and play.

Well, almost.

This week, City Commissioners gathered at their regular caucus meeting and heard a proposal from the Parks and Recreation Department to utilize $75,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funding to expand recreational programming by paying for coaches and administrative support on a contract basis for basketball, volleyball and soccer leagues between Dec. 21, 2022 and March 31, 2025.

Coaches will be paid $50 per day and administrative help $15 per hour, reported Ben Oldiges, the city’s Parks and Recreation Manager.

The city will partner with the Covington Independent Public Schools, and each year will include one basketball session, one volleyball session and two soccer sessions.

“A little bit of background information on this initiative,” Oldiges said. “During the budgeting process this past year we came to the conclusion that we would like to utilize ARPA funds to provide additional recreational opportunities for youth in our community. These opportunities would be a little bit more comprehensive than one-off events or programs.”

So, he said, they entered into the partnership with the schools — and Mayor Joseph U. Meyer wondered just what that would entail.

“For a baseline they were kind enough to open their doors and allow us to use some of their indoor facilities for the facilitation of these sports programs and potential camps down the road,” Oldiges said. “They have actually also come to agreement to provide transportation for all of the youth in this program this program.”

“I’m very happy to support this partnership with the Covington schools,” said Commissioner Ron Washington. “And we’re also going to be employing some youth, right? Do you have some information on that?”

“Correct, yes,” Oldiges replied. “All the coaches and the administrative support will be pulled from either recent Holmes High School graduates or current students.”

Lastly, Commissioner Tim Downing wondered what the plan could look like post-2025.

“We were hoping to utilize this as a portfolio builder so that we could go to potential donors and show hard numbers of what we were able to do,” Oldiges said.

Downing agreed that sounded like a good plan.

The proposal was placed on next week’s consent agenda.

Code Enforcement Home Repair Program

Commissioners heard a proposal for an agreement between the Center for Great Neighborhoods to manage the Code Enforcement Home Repair Program.

The $500,000 ARPA subrecipient contract grant program will assist homeowners with exterior code violations up to $25,000 per home.

CGN was selected as subrecipient based upon its:

• Experience managing home rehabilitation projects throughout the city using federal funds programs
• Completing work on eight properties in partnership with the city utilizing Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) funds
• Completing work on 25-plus properties in partnership with the city utilizing HOME and CDBG funds
• Their mission to support Covington neighborhoods

According to city documents, “CGN will select preferred contractors and will charge up to 20 percent or $100,000 for administrative costs; $400,000 will be available for repairs; at least 16 homeowners will be assisted; the contract will begin Jan. 2, 2023, and end in March 31, 2025.”

“Basically, this is going to be a code enforcement referral program,” said Jeremy Wallace, the city’s Community Development Manager. “We feel like that’s a really good way to identify the folks to be assisted and we will refer those folks to the Center, who will then manage the construction and all other aspects of the projects.”

The proposal was placed on next week’s consent agenda.

Mayor speaks out on tax hikes

Mayor Joseph Meyer aired out several frustrations regarding recent tax hikes made by the county and region.

Mayor Joseph Meyer

“We just went through an exercise in which we provided a lot of extra money to provide support for people and paying their utilities,” he said. “Well, the General Assembly made changes to the sales tax law that go into effect in January. The first, and one of the changes that goes into effect, is that the sales tax will apply to residential property unless the occupant can establish that it is their primary domicile, so exactly how this is going to work is somewhat open to question.”

The Mayor said you can go to Duke’s website, but that may be confusing. In fact, they may just take the position that everything is commercial and the burden is on the residents to fill out the form and give it to the utility company so they can be exempt from the sales tax.

“I think we’re looking at the potential of a 6 percent increase in the cost of utilities for a lot of our residents here in Covington and I don’t think it’s widely understood that this is where we’re going,” he said. “So I would encourage us to talk with some of our advocacy groups and our agencies to see if there’s some game plan to help people avoid this 6 percent increase.”

Secondly, he noted how the energy company just filed for a 17.8 percent increase on Dec. 1. He noted this could mean a $25-$75 increase on some bills.

Which led him to a third comment: “I don’t know what’s going on with us around here, so we’ve got taxes that are raising potentially the utility bills for owner occupants, we have Duke raising the electric asking for a 17.8 percent increase in their electric bill, and the water district allowed last July for a 15.5 percent rate increase in the water bills.”

He also noted that “new legislation with the extension of the sales tax also means people who park in our surface lots and in our parking garages are going to have to pay sales tax, which means the city’s going to have to collect and remit sales tax to the state even though they won’t let us collect and use sales tax money here.”

On top of that, he said, Kenton County and the fiscal court is changing the occupational license fee in two ways: One is to raise the rate .91 percent, and the other is to raise the taxable base from $25,000 to $73,500.

“So, the taxable base has tripled, and the tax rate has increased,” he said. “That means that the effective payroll tax rate for people who work in Covington will be raised from 2.45 percent to 3.44 percent — that would make us by far by far the highest occupational license fee city in the state and put us at a huge competitive disadvantage with the other cities and communities that we deal with.”

Clearly, he was not pleased.

“This tax just allows (the county) to reap a lot of profits and use it for whatever they want,” the Mayor noted. “At the same time, they’re hurting the cities, and that puts us at a competitive disadvantage. I just wanted to you (the public) to know the bigger context of what’s going on in our local economy and ask what in the world our governments are doing to us.”

Western Avenue improvements

Commissioners heard a proposal to use extra funds to cover extra costs in the Western Avenue slide fix. The order would allocate $400,000 in ARPA funds to the project, which originally was estimated to cost $832,950 in May 2022, with $456,206 budgeted in the Infrastructure Fund. The total budget will be $856,206 to allow for cost increases.

ARPA funds are available from three projects:

• City Heights Relocation needs are less than budgeted
• City Hall Design is being funded with General Fund dollars
And Premium Pay for Union & Nonunion Employees was less than budgeted

The proposal was placed on next week’s consent agenda. 

Workforce Development Initiative

Commissioners heard a proposed grant for the Northern Kentucky Area Development District for $150,000 to provide special workforce development services for Covington residents, including (according to a memo from the city’s Economic Development Department):

• Transportation – The workforce system will develop and administer a transportation solution for Covington residents unable to accept jobs in Covington and other parts of the region because they lack personal transportation or the public transit system does not adequately serve that employer.

• BuildED Scholarships – This unique approach to developing soft/workplace skills is based on the principles of entrepreneurship and has produced very positive results in areas of the country where it has been applied.

On The Job Training Supplement – This stipend encourages businesses to take a chance of someone with little or no work experience to allow them to gain that valued asset while working.

The proposal was placed on next week’s consent agenda.


Commissioners heard proposals for the resignations of: Officer Paul Mace
Stephanie Bacher and Solid Waste and Recycling Coordinator

The proposals were placed on next week’s consent agenda.

Hirings and renewals

Commissioners heard proposals for the hirings of: Jonathon Stribling, Police Officer

Commissioners heard proposals for the renewals of the retiree contracts of:
Officer Dave Finan, Officer Jacob Noe, and Officer Wesley Cook

The proposals were all placed on next week’s consent agenda.

Williams absent

Commissioner Michelle Williams was absent Tuesday night.

Next Meeting

The next regularly scheduled Covington Commission meeting will be a legislative meeting held at 6 p.m., Dec. 20, at the City Building at 20 W. Pike St. in Covington. The meetings can be followed live on Fioptics channel 815, Spectrum channel 203, the Telecommunications Board of Northern Kentucky (TBNK) website, the TBNK Facebook page @TBNKonline, and the TBNK Roku channels.

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