The McCracken County Fiscal Court continued to grapple with the coming year’s budget in a workshop Tuesday, this time covering the general departments, the sheriff’s department and outside agency funding.
Deputy Judge-Executive Steve Doolittle led the meeting, addressing the county’s push to keep department budgets flat or lower than in the past because of revenue concerns due to COVID-19.
“The crisis isn’t the increased spending that we’re doing as a result of our response to the virus. While we have spent some money, those funds — relative to our entire budget — are rather modest,” Doolittle said. “It’s the slow moving issue of what will it do to revenue, particularly occupational (taxes).”
Later in the meeting, the court passed a resolution to apply for the Coronavirus Stimulus Fund, which would net the county $58,080 as it works to financially navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sheriff Matt Carter was on the call to discuss his department’s budget allocation — which will be increasing by just over 7% to $5,548,130. This increase, Doolittle explained, comes from allotting vehicle funds to the sheriff’s budget. These have been coming out of the fiscal court’s general fund for the past several years.
Moving forward, Carter has two goals for the county and his agency: (1) to increase the deputy account to allow for a more beneficial and efficient shift system and (2) to bridge the salary gap his department has with other area agencies, like the Paducah Police Department.
Deputies in the sheriff’s department can start with salaries as much as $15,000 lower than those of Paducah Police officers at a similar level of seniority.
“Law enforcement has become a less favorable career. There’s less interest all across the nation, there’s fewer applicants,” the sheriff said. “So I think it’s important for us to work together to do all that we can to ensure that we’re able to hire and retain the most qualified officers.”
Overall, the general services budget for the county is going up 2.18% to $1,279,174. This budget is made up allotments for the county judges, the fiscal court itself, the county’s finance department, emergency management and animal control, as well as several others. What increases are occurring in this portion of the budget are mostly made up accumulated need over time in terms of equipment and staffing.
During the current fiscal year, the court gave $77,437 to outside agencies beyond its commitments to Barkley Regional Airport, Greater Paducah Economic Development and West Kentucky Community and Technical College’s Community Scholarship Program.
This coming fiscal year, it plans to cut roughly $11,000 from that commitment while still giving to some community youth sports organizations, Brooks Stadium, the McCracken County Community Career Endowment and the area Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program.
A possible appropriation for the Paducah Area Transit System is pending.
Work on the fiscal 2021 budget is expected to continue in the coming weeks as the court looks to propose an ordinance in time to submit it to the state by July 1.