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County hears proposed department budgets

BY KATHLEEN FOX kfox@paducahsun.com

The McCracken County Fiscal Court heard from leaders of three county departments and discussed facility and equipment needs, as well as staff members in need of salary increases.

The fiscal court met in a budget workshop Wednesday night at the courthouse to hear presentations about the financial needs for Carson Park Board, the county jail and the coroner's office in the 2014-2015 fiscal year.

Commissioners discussed at length the need to remedy one of the main budget challenges previously outlined by Judge-executive Van Newberry - the high turnover and low wages for deputies at the McCracken County Jail. The heavy turnover leads to more money spent on uniforms, training and other transitional expenses, he said.

The county has had 10 employees leave for another job since July 1, 2013, with a average starting salary of $21,132. Newberry presented a preliminary solution that was endorsed by Jailer Bill Adams as a "starting point" that would provide a tiered salary increase structure, between 15 percent and 1.5 percent.

The plan includes a new starting salary of $24,000 and would have all current employees making more than that amount. The estimated cost, which includes retirement, Social Security and workers compensation would be an additional $180,000 for the county.

Newberry also drafted a similar proposed structure for the sheriff's department, although turnover there is much lower with only one employee leaving since July 1, 2013. The sheriff's department preliminary budget will be presented during the next workshop set for Tuesday.

Adams presented his preliminary budget, which would include increases for home incarnation, utilities and radio/communication equipments. He said the jail will save money -- from $20,000 to $10,000 on prisoner bedding -- because of a new program that will allow class D felons to make their own mattresses in house. He also asked for a new minivan to replace an older transport vehicle. The projected telephone budget also would decrease by 25 percent from $40,000 to $30,000.

McCracken County Coroner Dan Sims presented his office's proposed budget. The most substantial increase would be in the new equipment category going from $3,500 to $12,500. The funds would be earmarked for a multiuse response trailer to bring resources to crime scenes that officials work for an extended period of time. He said oftentimes the county has to borrow equipment from emergency management or other county departments, and the trailer could also be used by the jail and the sheriff's department.

Members of the Carson Park Board presented a preliminary budget that would include an increase from $30,000 to $41,938 for renovations and repairs to update the inside upstairs wall and paint the lower level of Floral Hall, a historic, modified barn. Director Mary Jannett said the work would help the already popular event rental location receive additional bookings.

The park's budget also included an increase from $3,500 to $31,180 for new equipment primarily to fund a Dragmaster machine, which would be used in construction of the new arena. She said the equipment would create unique footings to add versatility for host events, such as barrel racing, to draw more spectators.

The next workshop, where the court will discuss the sheriff, finance and county clerk budgets, will begin at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the courthouse. The next session may also include a presentation of the maintenance department budget that was delayed from Wednesday's workshop.

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

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