After learning more than 300 workers would be laid off indefinitely from Verso paper mill in Wickliffe, Kentucky, Ballard County leaders say more than half their occupational tax revenue will disappear.
That revenue is used to support their local jail, road department, the department of emergency services, courthouse operations, and their local ambulance service. That decrease is around $500,000.
Belinda Foster, who has been the county’s treasurer for 20 years, says things are bad. She thinks if Verso doesn’t make a comeback or new industry doesn’t replace those jobs, the budget will come up short. “It’s just going to be a domino effect,” she said.
The town’s ambulance service went on its 870th call of the year Friday. Although they bill patients after services, they still depend on the county to supplement their expenses. Foster says there is no other option for funding; their government depended on Verso jobs. “Most counties have all kinds of taxes. We have an occupational tax and a property tax, and that's it,” she added.
Many of the government services supported by the tax are partially funded by either the federal or state government.
When asked if the community could recover without new industry, she replied “probably not.”