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Sheriff's office to start sending tax bills this week

Warren County property owners can expect to hear from the sheriff’s office starting this week.

The subject: taxes.

Jessica Coles, bookkeeper and tax deputy for the Warren County Sheriff’s Office, said her office will begin mailing property tax bills Wednesday and will start accepting payments Thursday.

Coles said the sheriff’s office will mail tax statements to about 52,100 county property owners, an increase of about 300 from last year, and she expects a boost in tax revenue from the $80 million collected last year.

“Warren County is growing every year,” Coles said. “We’ve gone up in the number of bills, and some people will see a higher assessment for their property.”

What they won’t see is an increase in the tax rates.

Warren Fiscal Court opted this month to keep the tax rate on real property at 14.5 cents per $100 of assessed value, a rate that hasn’t changed in more than a decade. Fiscal court also voted to keep the tax on motor vehicles and watercraft at 16.2 cents per $100 of assessed value.

The magistrates lowered the county’s tax rate on personal property from last year’s rate of 18.85 cents to 18.8.

The county’s four taxing districts – public health, library, extension service and conservation district – will have minor changes this year, with the public health levy up slightly and the conservation district down a bit.

“Most people are not going to see a lot of difference,” said Coles, who noted that paying promptly can pay off in a slightly reduced bill.

Taxpayers will get a 2 percent discount if they pay their bills between Oct. 1 and Nov. 1, she said.

Those paying between Nov. 2 and Dec. 31 will pay the full amount. Bills paid after Dec. 31 will include a late fee.

Coles said property owners 65 years old and over have another way of lowering their tax bill: the homestead exemption that allows them to subtract $39,300 from their property’s assessed value and pay taxes on the lower amount.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Coles said the sheriff’s office will make some changes in how it collects taxes this year.

“They can always mail it in,” she said. “We will also have a new drop box on College Street. We’ll have signs telling people how to find it.

“We’ll also have a drop window at the courthouse, and people can pay with a credit card online. We’re really trying to keep people healthy and not make them come in to the office. We’ve had long lines in the past. We want to avoid that.”

Coles said answers to most tax questions can be found at the warrencounty kysheriff.com/taxes website, which will include a link for paying online.

“We’re trying to make it as easy as possible,” she said.

– Follow business reporter Don Sergent on Twitter @BGDNbusiness or visit bgdailynews.com.

Anne Newton of Rarebird Music, right, and Lost River Cave's Chad Singer pin a hat to Newton's scarecrow head for her Scarecrow Trail display on Monday, Sept. 28, 2020. Approximately 60 organizations, companies and families will have scarecrows set up on the park’s walking trails for visitors to enjoy starting Friday, Oct. 2. (Grace Ramey/photo@bgdailynews.com)

From left, Warren East High School juniors Elizabeth Crews and Diamond McDonald and WEHS FCCLA (Family Career and Community Leaders of America) Advisor Bridgette Hughes put clothes on their scarecrows for their Scarecrow Trail display at Lost River Cave on Monday, Sept. 28, 2020. Approximately 60 organizations, companies and families will have scarecrows set up on the park’s walking trails for visitors to enjoy starting Friday, Oct. 2. (Grace Ramey/photo@bgdailynews.com)

Indian Hills CC planning to rebuild clubhouse

If all goes according to plan, the second anniversary of the fire that destroyed the Indian Hills Country Club clubhouse will be less about remembering a tragedy than celebrating a renaissance.

A groundbreaking was held Monday for a 15,250-square-foot clubhouse building that is expected to be completed by December 2021.

The building designed by the Williams Associates architectural firm will be a bit of a departure from the building that went up in flames Dec. 7.

Costing about $4.2 million, according to a building permit filed with the city of Bowling Green, the new clubhouse will move away from large events like wedding receptions and more toward fitness and dining.

“We’ve changed the design a little bit to minimize the congregation space and emphasize the workout areas and private dining,” said Dave Elliott, president of the Builders by Design construction firm that is building the new clubhouse along with Stewart Richey Construction.

Elliott, an Indian Hills member, said the country club’s 400 members gave input on what they wanted in the new building.

“We asked people what was important to them,” Elliott said. “With little exception, we met everything on the list.

“There are so many event venues around here now. We decided we didn’t need to be in that business anymore.”

Tony Scenna, co-chairman of the committee formed to plan the new clubhouse, said the new structure will be 1,500 square feet smaller than the former building.

Scenna said new features include an 1,100-square-foot exercise room, two saunas and a larger eating area that he likens to a sports bar.

Although Indian Hills was established in 1956, Scenna said the clubhouse building that burned was only 13 years old.

“I was on the building committee when that one was built,” he said as he remembered the blaze. “Everybody was taken aback. My thought when I heard about the fire was that it was a small fire in the kitchen. By the time the fire department got there it had gone through the roof.”

The country club’s insurance will cover the cost of rebuilding, Scenna said.

“Our insurance company went to work and got us a settlement that will allow us to build again,” he said. “The insurance is going to make us whole.”

Despite the fire, Scenna said a makeshift clubhouse fashioned out of a portion of the country club’s cart barn was operating by April.

“We got a lot of help from our members, and we got a food trailer that our chef has been working out of,” Scenna said. “It has been a long nine months, and a lot of hard work and planning has gone into this. Now we’re on our way to a new building.”

– Follow business reporter Don Sergent on Twitter @BGDNbusiness or visit bgdailynews.com.

Rain falls on the display set up by Young Inspections for Lost River Cave's annual Scarecrow Trail on Monday, Sept. 28, 2020. Approximately 60 organizations, companies and families will have scarecrows set up on the park’s walking trails for visitors to enjoy starting Friday, Oct. 2. (Grace Ramey/photo@bgdailynews.com)

Ethics experts see national security concern in Trump's debt

WASHINGTON – A New York Times report that President Donald Trump is personally liable for more than $400 million in debt raises national security concerns he could be manipulated to sway U.S. policy by organizations or individuals to whom he’s indebted, some ethics experts said.

The latest scrutiny of Trump, who claims great success as a private businessman, came after the Times said tax records show he is personally carrying a staggering amount of debt – including more than $300 million in loans that will come due in the next four years.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., was blunt about the potential implications. “He may be vulnerable to financial blackmail from a hostile foreign power and God knows what else,” said Warren, who has been a frequent Trump critic.

The Times said the tax records show Trump did not pay any federal income taxes in 11 years between 2000 and 2018, raising questions about the fairness of a president – who purports to be a billionaire – paying less in taxes than most Americans.

The revelations about Trump’s tax avoidance, however, are perhaps less concerning than word the president is holding hundreds of millions of dollars of soon-to-mature debt, ethics experts said.

“Americans should be concerned about the president’s debt because it’s a national security risk for our country,” said Donald Sherman, deputy director of the nonprofit government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “This is information that the president has aggressively and repeatedly tried to keep away from the public.”

Trump, citing an Internal Revenue Service audit, hasn’t released his tax returns, so the complexities of his financial interests and who he does business with have remained opaque. He’s fighting ongoing court battles with New York’s attorney general, Manhattan’s district attorney and two Democrat-run House committees who want the records.

Richard Painter, who served as chief ethics attorney in Republican George W. Bush’s White House, also noted that Trump-owned companies have declared bankruptcy six times, raising the question: Why have lenders been willing to keep risking loans of such enormous amounts?

“Why would banks assume the risk on these loans?” Painter asked. “Or did someone else quietly assume risk of that loan for the bank to make it happen?”

Trump, according to his latest financial disclosure statement, reported that he had 14 loans on 12 properties.

One lender, Germany-based Deutsche Bank, continued to do business with Trump even after he defaulted in 2008 on a loan for his Chicago hotel and condo development. Trump filed suit against the bank and others whom he blamed for his inability to repay.

But Deutsche Bank’s private banking division continued to lend to Trump, including $125 million to finance the purchase and renovation of his Doral golf resort in 2012, according to previous disclosures.

Trump on Monday suggested that his debt load is hardly unusual in comparison with his assets, claiming in a tweet that he’s in fact “extremely under leveraged.”

“I have very little debt compared to the value of assets,” he wrote, adding that he may release a financial statement that spells out all assets, properties and debts.

Trump ignored a reporter’s question Monday about when he might release such a statement, and the White House would not comment on when he might follow through. He said repeatedly before his election that he would release his actual taxes but never has.

Kathleen Clark, a government ethics expert at Washington University in St. Louis, said a separate financial statement from Trump would shed little light on his business dealings if he does not disclose who his business partners are in his various holdings.

“The Trump Organization consists of hundreds of LLCs (limited liability corporations) that have been listed on his financial disclosure forms,” Clark said. “One of the things that Trump has benefitted from ... is opaqueness of LLCs.”

Trump refused to divest his business interests after his 2016 victory over Hillary Clinton and left day-to-day operation of his family’s real estate and other holdings to his sons Donald Jr. and Eric. Still, the president has benefitted personally from U.S. and foreign government activity at his properties since his election and hasn’t shied away from promoting his hotels and golf courses.

Republicans have held at least 88 political events at his properties, the president has visited his hotels and golf courses more than 500 times and at least 13 foreign governments have held events at Trump establishments, according to a tally by CREW.

The administration drew criticism last year when Vice President Mike Pence, while visiting Dublin for meetings, lodged at Trump International Golf Links and Hotel more than 180 miles away in Doonbeg, Ireland. Trump scrapped a plan to hold a meeting of the Group of 7 world leaders at one of his Florida properties last year after bipartisan criticism.

In the runup to his 2016 election victory, Trump played down his bankruptcies as a smart business strategy and even referred to himself as the “king of debt.”

“I’ve always loved debt, I must be honest with you,” Trump said during a campaign rally. “I don’t love it for countries, but I love it individually. If things work out good that’s great, if they don’t, you go renegotiate.”

The New York Times also said Trump did not pay federal income tax in 11 of 18 years, and just $750 each year for 2017 and 2018.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on MSNBC that “our responsibility is to protect and defend and we have to make sure we know what exposure the president of the United States has, and what an impact it has on national security decisions for our country.”

Painter said that if Trump were attempting to appoint someone with his massive debt load to a high-profile government position, the nominee would almost certainly face trouble getting a security clearance. Indeed, inability or unwillingness to satisfy debts and a history of not meeting financial obligations could disqualify any federal employee from receiving a security clearance, according to government guidelines.

Peter Schweizer, president of the Government Accountability Institute, said: “The question is also one of whether the loans are tied to actual assets such as buildings, etc., or was the political figure granted special favors in getting loans. Politicians and their families can engage in commercial transactions, the question is whether the loans are unusual and unique compared to others in the marketplace.”

Faux spiders fill the display set up by Community Education at the Track presented by U.S. Bank for Lost River Cave’s annual Scarecrow Trail on Monday, Sept. 28, 2020. Approximately 60 organizations, companies and families will have scarecrows set up on the park’s walking trails for visitors to enjoy starting Friday, Oct. 2. (Grace Ramey/photo@bgdailynews.com)