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Fiscal Court begins budget discussions

BY KATHLEEN FOX kfox@paducahsun.com

The task of balancing McCracken County's revenue and expenditures for the next fiscal year has begun.

The McCracken County Fiscal Court met in a pre-budget workshop Tuesday night at the courthouse. Members generally discussed the proposed $26 million budget. Last year's budget was $31 million, which included funds for the new Murray State regional campus.

The county currently has $7.1 million in a raining day fund, which would finance the county for four to five months, according to Judge-Executive Van Newberry. Court members have emphasized frugality each of the past several years, and the 2013-2014 budget was the 13th without a tax increase.

"Our revenues haven't gone up but expenditures have gone up, so that will be difficult to balance," County Treasurer Angie Brown.

Newberry outlined the largest challenges, including a relative flat economy and the loss of revenue from job cutbacks at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, ongoing incentives necessary to draw employers into the area, high turnover and low wages for low-level deputies at the McCracken County Jail, the needs of the animal shelter, which could include building a new facility or a partnership with the county Humane Society, and increasing insurance premium and retirement costs.

Deputy Judge-Executive Doug Harnice said the court should have an idea about the direction of the animal shelter within the next month when the task force presents a recommendation.

After a question by Sheriff Jon Hayden, the need for increased salaries for low level McCracken County sheriff's deputies joined the list. The court also discussed whether E-911 should be added. Hayden, Coroner Dan Sims and Jailer Bill Adams, members of the board, voiced a belief that changes to the system will not apply to this fiscal year because a new director hadn't been hired and major issues haven't been resolved.

Newberry listed the top major expenditures and revenues. The top five expenditures are county salaries at $7.3 million, retirement and medical insurance for employees both around $2 million, debt payments at $1.5 million, and road construction/fuel taxes at $1.2 million. The top five revenues are payroll taxes at $5.6 million, property tax at $3.25 million, jail revenues at $1.9 million, hotel tax at $1.74 million and clerk fees at $1.67 million.

The revenues for payroll taxes are budgeted at a conservative number due to a decrease in employees at USEC from about 1,700 workers in July 2013 to about 650 workers this July, Newberry said.

He asked commissioners to look over a list of miscellaneous requests. Commissioner Zana Renfro said she would propose that the court continue the practice from last year of not taking any new requests to focus on county needs.

The court has five additional workshops planned for the upcoming weeks to work on the budget. Departments that will present during those sessions include the sheriff, jail, Carson Park, maintenance, coroner, finance, county clerk, road department, building, electrical, emergency services, code enforcement, animal control and shelter.

The next workshop, where the court will discuss the Carson Park,  jail, maintenance and coroner budgets, will begin at 5:30 p.m. April 16 at the courthouse.

Contact Kathleen Fox, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8651 or follow @kathleendfox on Twitter.

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