Committee begins work on county budget

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By The Staff

SHEPHERDSVILLE - The daunting task of preparing a budget that will be balanced and eliminate the need for county employees to take a 20 percent cuts in pay in some departments has begun.

A committee of magistrates Joe Laswell and Eddie Bleemel began asking questions and trying to find out answers on Tuesday. The next committee meeting, which is open to the public, will begin at 2:30 p.m. on Monday, May 11, in the fiscal courtroom.

Discussion in the initial meeting bounced around to a variety of topics. However, in the end, the panel was concerned with trying to cut expenses, where possible, and see if revenue projections presented by Bullitt County Judge/Executive Melanie Roberts were accurate.

“This is going to be a complicated issue,” said Laswell.

In Roberts’ proposed budget, the major issue was a plan to save over $300,000 by having employees in non-emergency departments to work only four days a week.

Roberts said the needs outnumbered the revenue by around $2 million, which has been consistent each year she has been in office. The judge said the budget she inherited had more appropriations than revenue, if carryover funds weren’t included.

The proposed budget of $15.3 million is about $2.7 million less than the previous year.

Some of the ideas discussed during the first meeting:

*Considering the immediate sell of county property in two locations.

Laswell said he would bring up at the May 19 meeting that a national real estate firm be retained to sell the property on Highway 44 East next to the school board office. Also on the auction block would be a .75-acre tract off John Harper Highway that is not even connected to the rest of the county park.

He felt he had a buyer interested in the Pioneer Village property.

And he would be more than pleased to take $1 million for the old Gobel’s property. That would cover the cost of the land purchase three years ago.

Bleemel said if the county could get the renovation work completed on the Saltwell Road building, the old Red Cross building on North Buckman Street could be sold or leased for additional revenue.   

*Looking at the future of the four county pools.

Bleemel wondered if the cities would be willing to take over the control of the pools.

Just hours earlier, magistrates heard from parks director Kendall Grant about new federal safety standards that would require some alterations to the intact filtration systems. He didn’t know the cost.

Bleemel said there is also the possibility of closing some of the pools, although both magistrates said that would be a last resort.

The possibility of installing spray pools or splash parks was also discussed. The low cost water areas are common.

*Assistant county attorney Rob Flaherty mentioned taking a look at training and travel costs.

He said employees could pay for the costs and then claim that on their income tax returns.

*Bleemel said there should be no more vehicles purchased.

And Laswell said take-home vehicles should be examined immediately.

*County treasurer Kenann Bradley said there could be some less-expensive options available for health insurance.

She said the county has some very good policies that are offered to employees. But with a wellness policy in place, there might be savings. Also, lesser policies could provide some reduced costs.

Currently, the county basically pays for a single insurance plan.

*Magistrate David Walker said that with only $400,000 set aside for asphalt purchase, the road department wouldn’t be doing a lot of blacktopping.

Instead, he said there should be a lot of ditch work completed.

And, instead of the county doing resurfacing work in the cities with municipalities only paying for the material, Walker said that agreement might need to be reconsidered.

He felt the county already pays for services such as 911 and planning and zoning, there might be a way to charge a little more for the resurfacing work.

*Walker also wondered if any of the existing bonds could be refinanced for lower rates and a longer term.

*Walker said there should be an immediate policy to stop all spending unless the item is an emergency. That would provide as much carryover as possible. Currently, there is no money planned to be carried forward to the next fiscal year, which starts on July 1.

*The committee looked at the on-going study of increasing the monthly landline phone fee. Each landline contributes $1 per month to the 911 Central Dispatch system. Counties around the state average a $4 per month charge.

*There should be some additional revenue after July 1 that needs to be budgeted.

Included in this category could be the FEMA reimbursements for the wind and ice storms from the past year.

On Monday, jailer Danny Fackler and EMS director Mike Phillips will be present to answer questions. Magistrates said these are the two departments that use the most general funds.

The county must finalize its budget by the end of June.