Coal companies controlled by the family of West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice have agreed to a settlement covering millions of dollars in overdue property taxes in four eastern Kentucky counties: Harlan, Knott, Magoffin, and Pike.
Checks totaling $1.2 million from Justice entities began rolling in last week, county officials said. According to state officials, the checks cover half the delinquent debt owed. Counties will receive the remaining amount in payments over the next six months.
Property taxes, which dwindled as the region’s coal industry declined, are used to fund essential services such as schools, fire departments, sheriff’s offices and libraries. County officials say the unpaid taxes from the Justice companies forced layoffs and added to hardships in an economically struggling region.
NPR, The Ohio Valley ReSource, and its partner stations reported in 2016 that the Justice companies had failed to pay more than $15 million in taxes and mine safety penalties in five states. Since then, the Justice companies have entered agreements to pay overdue taxes in West Virginia and, now, Kentucky. Federal prosecutors have also sued to recover millions in mine safety fines.
In a press release Monday, Kentucky Finance Cabinet Secretary William Landrum billed the agreement as a …