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McCracken Fiscal Court continues budget talks

BY KATHLEEN FOXkfox@paducahsun.com

Fiscal Court budget discussions have entered the evaluation process after all county departments presented their requests over the last few weeks.

Judge-Executive Van Newberry presented preliminary numbers during the first of two workshops on Tuesday night. He said factoring in the basic line items from each department and the 1.5 percent cost of living adjustments mandated by the state, the county has a $62,000 surplus. That number doesn't reflect special requests from all departments and other general needs.

The court has emphasized the importance of provided the tiered raises for employees at the jail and the sheriff's department to combat turnover. The increase would be the greatest for the lowest level deputies, then decrease moving upward. The estimated cost for the increases in both departments, including Social Security and retirement costs, would be $162,000.

Other transportation requests include one van for the jail at a cost of $17,000, four vehicles for the sheriff's department for a total cost of $100,000, five dump trucks and three other vehicles in the road department for $681,500, and two sport-utility vehicles and one truck for the department of emergency service (DES) for $102,500.

Preliminarily, the court decided to reduce the number of sheriff's vehicles from four to three for $75,000, only allocate for one truck in DES at a cost of $28,500 and to wait on decisions for the road department vehicles until the final fuel tax estimates and paving needs are received later this week. Fuel taxes can be used for paving and road fixes as well as road vehicles ,and the money will then be put toward the highest priority needs.

Additional miscellaneous requests included a raise for Carson Park Director Mary Jannett of $2,400, raises for four clerks in the sheriff's department for a total of $8,300, changing one employee in the maintenance department and one in the building/electrical department from part-time to full-time, for $21,000 and $18,000 respectively, and adding two additional county clerk positions for $21,000 each.

Commissioners decided to exclude the clerk's request for two additional employees, citing the number of full-time employees at 20 being at least two employees higher than similar size counties.

After adding a commissioners line item to the initial $62,000, there was a total of $222,000 to use. The cost of $162,000 for sheriff and jail employees' raises was deducted, leaving $60,000. Deducting the pared down list of requested items meant a deficit of $60,500.

Commissioners then deducted the remaining amount from the economic development line item with $317,000, leaving about $205,000. The funds are used as incentives for businesses to move into the area but are separate from funds given to Paducah Economic Development.

In flux items include $90,000 for fixes to a portion of the courthouse roof, and $15,000 to fix cracks, seal and re-stripe the courthouse parking lot. The group also discussed Commissioner Ronnie Freeman's request to hire an internal auditor to monitor internal operations.

Newberry said the major undecided item is the animal shelter and whether the county will partner with the Humane Society or build an individual shelter. The county also could have to increase the salary of a new shelter director, now set at about $28,000 per year.

Court members emphasized that they will not raise taxes this year. Newberry asked commissioners to study the discussions and projected budget before another meeting set for 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the courthouse.

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

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