Committee finds some revenue, cuts some expenses

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By The Staff

SHEPHERDSVILLE - The hunt for finding revenue and cutting expenses began in earnest as the committee appointed by Bullitt Fiscal Court began its work.

In just one session, the committee led by magistrates Eddie Bleemel and Joe Laswell, heard some good news.

In the proposed $15.3 million budget for 2009-10, the jail and emergency medical services were the largest departments. Those were the ones tackled first by the committee.

County officials are trying to find a way to eliminate the need for some employees to lose one day of work each week.

Jailer Danny Fackler’s budget of $3 million will see a decrease in revenue of over $900,000.

Bleemel said that the jail staff should expect to see no salary increase, which would be the same as other county employees.

Since Fackler had included pay increases in his proposed budget, an undetermined savings would be seen in the payroll area.

Also, the jail budget would be decreased by $50,000 if no vehicles were purchased.

Fackler said the main reason for the decrease in revenue is the increase in the housing of non-paying county and charged inmates. Under the present system, the jail is paid for felony offenders who have received a final sentence and have not yet been moved to a state institution.

A year ago, Fackler said he was housing 135-140 state inmates. That number is now 40-45 a day. Conversely, the county population has doubled since last year.

He said there had been some conversation with court officials about how to move inmates through the system quicker.

Also, Fackler said he would contact the state to see if he could house a few more state inmates.

Laswell asked if it would be cheaper to have a single food vendor. Fackler said it could be studied.

They also asked about the feasibility of a medical service provider at the jail.

County treasurer Keann Bradley said that last year, the county spent $331,329 for medical services at the jail. Through 10 months, she said the county had spent only $183,546. By looking at the budget, the projected amount of $200,000 might be closer to reality.

Also, in food expenses, the jail is also running well below budget through 10 months. It might also see a decrease in the revised budget for next year.

Fackler said he has asked for an energy audit of the jail to determine if expenses could be saved with utilities.

As toilets are repaired, new valves are being installed to use less water.

Mike Phillips, supervisor of both EMS and emergency management, said the best news is that around $544,000 to be received from the federal government for reimbursement for storm damage has not been included in the upcoming budget.

That will add that amount of money to the revenue column, including $356,000 to the road department.

In the EMA budget, Phillips said the money set aside for weather sirens could be pulled out.

Funds could also be cut from the training budget.

Several added revenue opportunities exist.

Phillips said that by upgrading the current central dispatch system, the county could be eligible for $180,000 in additional revenue. There could also be money available for the GIS program, which is not funded in the upcoming budget.

To reach phase II compliance, it would cost about $40,000.

Another revenue source would be to look at the land-line surcharge for phones. With the current $1.25 a month per line charge, the county generates about $300,000 for central dispatch.

With the state average of $4 a month Phillips said simply doubling the current amount would generate needed revenue.

In terms of EMS, Phillips said there had been some concerns over the current 12-hour shifts. However, he pointed out that changing to eight-hour shifts would be more costly and would require hiring three additional full-time employees.

In the long run, he said paying the overtime is much cheaper than hiring additional staff.

He has cut some of the hours in the administrative positions.

The county operates with five ambulances around the clock. This includes a transfer unit that is paid for through Jewish Hospital.

With the volume, Phillips said the county couldn’t afford to cut an ambulance unit. If something were cut, it would be the transfer unit, which generates $320,000 annually and more than pays for the unit.

A concern of the committee is the proposal by Bullitt County Judge/Executive Melanie Roberts to require a portion of employees to take one day off unpaid each week.

Phillips said there might be a way to have different policies for new hires that could alter some of the benefits, such as sick and vacation leave.

The committee will work with the road department and planning and zoning at its next meeting on Tuesday, May 19, following the fiscal court meeting. The public is invited to attend.