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Fiscal court tweaks budget

BY KATHLEEN FOX kfox@paducahsun.com

McCracken County officials worked Wednesday to balance the budget despite several large items, including the status of E-911 services and the future path for local animal shelter and control, that remain in flux.

The Fiscal Court met in a final budget workshop - prior to the first reading set for Monday's meeting - to continue discussing the details of McCracken's 2014-15 budget. Judge-Executive Van Newberry presented the four budgetary items that had to be addressed: the road department's repair and equipment needs, the county informational technology (IT) services, E-911 funding, and the McCracken County Animal Shelter.

Newberry said he worked with the road department to juggle the necessary paving projects, mostly overlaying of roads, and the additional equipment requested. The department will receive three of the five dump trucks, one of the three pickup trucks and two salt spreaders from funds left after road work is complete. That money comes from fuel tax revenue rather than the county's general fund.

It costs the county about $70,000 to blacktop one mile of the 340 total miles of county roads. Newberry said the roads in need of repair are spread throughout the county and selected according to priority.

The county increased the amount budgeted for operational costs at the E-911 or Emergency Communications Center, which are provided through an agreement between the city and the county, from $325,000 to $430,000. The increase stems from a lack of remaining reserve E-911 funds and an increase of county animal control calls. The county and city split the cost according to monthly call volume, then all other costs are split 50/50.

That number doesn't include any of the necessary equipment upgrades, specifically to the phone system, which will not have technological support after September, and is set to cost about $500,000. Commissioners decided to take the extra $105,000 from the reserve or emergency fund but said much of the process with the E-911 call center and the future of the agreement with the city are still unknown, Newberry said.

The court decided to budget a flat amount - about $400,000 total for animal shelter and control, with $320,00 going to the current shelter - because a decision regarding the next course of action hasn't been made.

The county ended its contract with the McCracken County Humane Society in 2011 and started its own shelter. The county had paid the Humane Society $32,500 yearly for shelter operations and spent $120,000 for control for a total of $152,500. If the county decided to build a new shelter the cost would be about $1.3 million, which the county would bond over several years. If a new partnership is entered, the Humane Society would pay to construct the new complex, to house about 150 animals, and the county would pay per year toward subsidizing the operating costs.

The court will hear a task force's recommendation to repartner with the Humane Society from chairman Tim Davis during the meeting after this Monday. The county and city would then hold a workshop to discuss plans for control and shelter operations.

The county choose to keep its IT funding at $315,000, the same as the previous fiscal year. McCracken County bid out its IT services and hasn't made a decision between current provider Kalleo Technologies of Paducah and KeeFORCE of Symsonia. Fiscal Court members are set to vote during Monday's meeting.

They did agree to move forward on a temporary discount that would save between $4,000 to $8,000 for necessary IT upgrades. The county had to commit before Sunday to take advantage of the offer but has up to six months to cancel with no fees attached. McCracken County has to update about 70 computers and the sheriff's department in-car computers that are not serviceable or are still on a non-supported Windows XP platform.

Tiered raises for employees at the jail and the sheriff's department remain in next year's budget. Fiscal Court members decided to wait an additional year to fix one side of the courthouse roof at a cost of $90,000. The court does plan to include about $13,000 in funds to fix cracks, seal and re-stripe the courthouse parking lot.

The county doesn't plan to increase taxes to compensate for any shortfalls.

The first reading of the budget will be during Monday's Fiscal Court meeting at 6 p.m. at the courthouse. Changes can be made that aren't substantial amounts between the first and second readings. The second reading, which would adapt the budget, is set for June 9.

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