New York Times: Little Ewing’s Big Windfall

Downtown Ewing

Yesterday’s New York Times contained this story on little Ewing, Kentucky and its not-quite-really-new insurance tax (photo of Ewing’s downtown from the NYT):

Leaders of this town in the bluegrass country of northeast Kentucky are facing a problem any mayor would envy: how to spend a windfall.

Well, a small-town windfall at least. Ewing, population 300, has limped along for decades with no independent revenues, and its residents are fed up enough with having to pay county property taxes. But later this year, it will start collecting a grand total of $12,000 a year or more from a new tax that came about through quirks of fate and law.

…When Fleming County decided in 2007 to impose a 6 percent tax on insurance — home, business and car insurance and the first year’s premium of life insurance, basically anything but health insurance — town officials discovered they could turn this to their advantage.

Luckily, because of a previous odd twist, the town had officially incorporated itself years earlier. Under state rules, by adopting the same tax for the town, they could pre-empt the county. So later this year, Ewing will start receiving all insurance taxes collected from its residents. Since the residents would have had to pay the tax anyway, local officials feel they got a political pass.

“If we tried to adopt a tax, there would be a rebellion,” said Mr. Thomas, who runs a construction and renovation business.

“But the county passed it, and we just diverted it, so we weren’t the bad guys,” he said with a hearty laugh.

The prospect of unrestricted income “feels terrific,” he said.

As for the county executive who will lose expected revenue, “he was not exactly pleased,” Mr. Thomas wrote in an account of the maneuver on a rural affairs Web site, Daily Yonder.

Ewing’s gone through a lot of the rough times that many small American towns have gone through in the past few decades, as small towns decline in population and rural jobs dry up. Frankly, we’d never heard of the Fleming County hamlet (just east of Cynthiana, near where our grandfather was born) so we were intrigued. Here’s what Robert N. Rennick’s indispensible Kentucky Place Names says about it:

This thriving village with p[ost] o[ffice] is on the L&N [railroad] and KY [highway] 165, 6 miles west of Flemingsburg. In 1871 Robert Ewing, Jr. (1815-84), who had acquired his father’s property, donated land to the then Maysville & Lexington [railroad] for its depot and right-of-way and, on November 10, 1873, established the local post office which he named for his family. The town was chartered in 1880.

Hrm. We figure a lot has changed since 1984, when Kentucky Place Names was published.

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One Response to “New York Times: Little Ewing’s Big Windfall”

  1. […] a few interesting stories. One of the latest is a posts the alert found was where someone wrote about an article in the New York […]

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