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County facing $2 million shortfall

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Judge's draft plan to go to 4-day work week; cut EDA funding

By The Staff

SHEPHERDSVILLE - Needing to make up a $2.7 million deficit in the upcoming 2009-10 county budget, three dozen employees may see their work and their salaries cut by 20 percent.

Bullitt County Judge/Executive Melanie Roberts presented her proposed budget to magistrates on Thursday. The proposed budget must be presented by May 1.

But magistrates say the final document, which must be approved by June 30, will have several changes, including a way to eliminate the need for some non-emergency county agencies to go to 32-hour work weeks.

The 15.3 million budget comes after Roberts and deputy judge Billy Roy Shepherd worked to shave about $2.7 million off the original proposal as revenue streams have decreased over the past year.

“We have to make some adjustments,” said Roberts. “We don’t want four-day work weeks but we don’t have the money without major changes.”

About 37 employees could be affected with a savings of over $300,000, plus benefits.

Shepherd said either the employee hours are cut or there will be layoffs.

The goal was to not shut down any department but to have employees rotate days off, said Shepherd.

Both Roberts and Shepherd said they hope the magistrates will be able to find some money or make other suggestions.

With no desire to raise taxes, Roberts said she looked forward to working with the court members before passing the final version.

Some of the areas where revenue came up significantly short during the past year is in the jail, which is projected to be down over $800,000; planning and zoning, which will see permits decrease by $40,000; and code enforcement, which could be down over $200,000 in electrical and building inspection fees.

Shepherd said the drop in construction due to the economy accounts for the permit drops. The jail is now housing more county prisoners, as well as inmates who have not yet been finally sentenced on felony counts, which do not typically make up a large amount of revenue. State prison intact has decreased significantly.

Some of the significant cuts in the proposed budget include:

*A decrease of $100,000 in funding for the sheriff’s department in the area of deputy pay.

Sheriff Donnie Tinnell said he had not had time to look at the budget but he knew the department could not absorb such a loss in funding.

*No funding for the beautification grant on Highway 245. Shepherd hopes the county’s $35,000 commitment can be made with in-kind service.

*No funds are set aside for the annual cleanup days.

*No contribution to the Bullitt County Industrial Development Authority. Previously, the county has contributed $100,000 annually to the agency responsible for bringing economic development to the community.

*No funds were set aside to renovate the Saltwell Road property purchased two years ago by the county. The facility was to house the EMS, EMA, parks and recreation and storage of voting machines. Currently, the only use of the building is to store the voting machines.

*No funds set aside for GIS mapping program or IT consulting services.

*No staff salary for the animal shelter. The office position is currently vacant and would not be filled under the proposed budget. The animal control officer and his assistant would be the only paid staff members.

*No reserve funds would be in the contingency fund.

*Various staff positions currently not filled would remain vacant.

With the cut to the four-day work weeks, there are concerns about what would happen to benefits for employees.

Shepherd said the personnel handbook would be studied to make sure no one loses benefits due to any cutbacks in hours.

Roberts admitted that county employees were not pleased with the proposal and she understands their concerns. She hopes the magistrates can work with her to find some alternatives.

The Emergency Medical Services, central dispatch and the jail would be exempt from the employee cutbacks. Workers in the county clerk’s office and the sheriff’s office are also exempt from the cutbacks since they are funded through other revenue.

Magistrates were not pleased with the first glance of the proposal but all said there is time to figure out changes.

Eddie Bleemel, who will work with fellow magistrate Joe Laswell on the budget and personnel committee, said he wanted time to look at the proposal.

He said the first budget committee meeting, which will be held on Tuesday following the fiscal court meeting, would be a working session as there is no time to waste.

He did say that he wasn’t in favor of the four-day work week.

Laswell said he was concerned about the four-day work weeks, especially what it would do to county employees. He didn’t feel the county could keep employees who were being forced to take a 20 percent pay cut.

He said every line in the budget would be studied. He said there might be some changes to holidays but he knew there must be bigger changes to avoid the cutbacks.

Magistrate David Walker agreed that workers can stay with the county if they are taking 20 percent cuts.

For some with family health insurance, Walker said they might be making enough money to cover the premiums.

He understood the possibility of taking furlough days but he didn’t think 52 unpaid days off each year would be feasible.

The requirement of counties in Kentucky to maintain jails is a growing problem, said Walker. With nearly $1 million less in projected revenue, Walker said there just isn’t the ability to shut it down or decrease the days of operation. Instead, the county’s general fund will be transferring nearly $2 million to the detention center next fiscal year.

Magistrate Buddy Shepherd said he didn’t like some employees losing 52 days of work. But he also didn’t want to see anyone lose his or her job.

He said it wasn’t the time to think about increasing revenue through taxes but it was the revenue side that was hurting the county.

Bullitt Fiscal Court meets at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, May 5, at the courthouse. The public is invited.