Court approves $9.1 million budget

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Agreement to fund Rescue and E-911 focus of more last-minute discussion.

By Calen McKinney

Magistrates have approved a new Rescue and E-911 agreement with the city as well as a 2011-2012 fiscal year budget - though just barely, with votes of 3-2.

The current Rescue and E-911 agreement expired at midnight on Thursday, just 15 hours after Taylor Fiscal Court met in special session at 9 a.m. earlier that morning.

Two magistrates - John Gaines and Tommy Corbin - voted not to accept the new agreement, which Campbellsville Mayor Tony Young had already signed. They also voted not to accept the new budget.

Magistrate Richard Phillips was out of the county on business and could not attend the meeting.

Taylor County will operate with a little more than $400,000 more this fiscal year than last, though officials say this year's budget basically mirrors last year's.

Second reading of the budget was approved at a vote of 3-2. Magistrates had first reading of the budget in May.

Taylor County Judge/Executive Eddie Rogers says there are some minor differences in this year's budget when compared to last, such as the county not getting some grants it did last year. He said he believes the new budget is livable.

A breakdown of the $9.1 million budget is listed in a sidebar to this story.

Preparation of the budget began many months ago and has continued through several meetings of the Court's Budgets, Audits and Personnel Committee.

The county has estimated that it will receive $3 million this fiscal year in occupational taxes. It estimated $3.1 million in last year's budget.

The county's general fund, which totals a little more than $4.1 million, is up a bit from $3.9 million last year.

The road fund increases nearly $400,000, going from $1.3 million last year to nearly $1.7 this year.

The jail budget totals nearly $3.3 million, down from last year's $3.5 million.

The county's budget includes a $200,000 contribution to the Campbellsville/Taylor County Economic Development Authority - $100,000 for general expenses and the remaining $100,000 for debt payment on the $2 million land purchased for the Heartland Commerce and Technology Park.

The budget estimates a little more than $1.1 million from housing state inmates at the detention center, the same as last year.

All county employees - including magistrates - will receive a 3 percent raise this year. Magistrates have for several years waived their own raises. They last approved a raise for themselves in the 2007-2008 fiscal year.

County salaries are listed in a sidebar to this story.

County Treasurer Melissa Williams said after the meeting that the new budget contains $650,000 in surplus money from last fiscal year. She said that money is included in the new budget to make it balance. However, she said, she believes there will be some surplus money in addition to the $650,000, which magistrates will have to decide how they want to allocate.

This year's budget, like last year's, also includes a $650,000 payment to the city for operating Campbellsville/Taylor County Rescue and E-911 services. At the end of the fiscal year, revenue and expenses for the two entities will be calculated to see if that amount is half the combined shortfall. The county could receive money back or have to pay more depending on that total.

At Thursday's meeting, Rogers said the new budget includes no money for hiring a seasonal worker to help the road department staff mow the county's roads. Williams said that cost could be about $20,000.

Magistrate Ed Gorin said he would like for the county's Transportation Committee to research the possibility and report back to the Court. The other magistrates agreed.

Before voting on second reading of the budget, Rogers recognized Taylor County resident Dennis Hayes who wanted to speak to magistrates about the 3 percent raise for county employees.

Hayes, a dairy farmer, said he doesn't want magistrates to lose the reality that Taylor County residents pay quite a bit in taxes and many haven't received raises in several years.

"Times are hard for those who don't have government [or] state jobs," Hayes said.

To illustrate his point, Hayes read a tax bill he just paid that totaled $145. Of the $145 bill, he said, only $14 went to renewing the registration on a vehicle he owns. The rest of the bill is a variety of taxes.

"We're living in times when if you keep spending, you're putting the little people out of business," he said.

Rogers said it's important to realize that the county has cut its expenses to "the bare bones" over the years.

Rogers said some county employees work two and three jobs to support their family. Giving those people a raise, he said, gives them a little incentive.

Hayes said it's hard to understand why people who are making $18 an hour are given a raise when there are so many people in the community who earn minimum wage.

After the meeting, Williams said about 11 of the county's nearly 115 employees actually make $18 an hour.

Hayes said he knows someone who works at a local industry. After insurance, he said, that man brings home $226 in each paycheck to support his wife and four children.

"Try to live off that ... you make more than that as magistrates," he said.

Rogers said he knows many are out of work, but the community should be thankful that the county is run as well as it is on its limited income.

Gorin said the reason magistrates have agreed to give the raise is because county employees were able to save about $62,000 on insurance this year. Raises for all county employees will cost about $55,000.

"We're just giving them back something that did not use," Gorin said. "And that's a fair thing."

He said he, too, is a farmer and makes little from that venture. He said he hopes the community realizes that the Court watches spending closely.

"We're not out here spending money unwisely," he said.

Because the county saved on insurance, Magistrate Matt Pendleton said, raises, which he referred to as a cost-of-living increase, wouldn't cost taxpayers any more money.

"We're not asking you, the taxpayer, for any more money."

Hayes asked if the Court will ask for more taxes down the line.

"This Fiscal Court won't," Pendleton said.

Hayes said the average worker doesn't have insurance now, and he believes it is hard for them to see workers who already make a good wage receive an increase.

"It cuts to the core," he said.

Rogers said he understands.

"[However], you have to reward the people who have saved you dollars."

Rogers said the community hasn't seen an increase in the county's occupational tax rate since it was implemented in 1999.

"Where would we be if we had not put the tax on?" he asked.

Gaines said raises have been discussed at many budget meetings throughout the preparation of the new budget. Each time, he said, the raises were voted down.

He said he proposed a 0.75 percent increase during one of the last meetings, which was also turned down. He said he doesn't support giving the $62,000 back to county employees.

"I think it looks bad for a lot of people who don't get raises for us to give 3 percent," he said.

In a roll call vote, Gaines and Corbin cast the lone "no" votes and the budget passed 3-2.


Interlocal agreement

City and county officials came to an agreement to fund Rescue and E-911 on May 23 after many months of discussion and a two-and-a-half hour joint meeting that night. The agreement calls for the city and county to split the deficits of Rescue and E-911 evenly for the next four years.

But at issue during Thursday's meeting was a disagreement about the county's turning over the funds it collects from a landline tax to pay bills on behalf of the E-911 Center. Magistrates also said they are concerned about the committee that is supposed to be formed of Rescue officials and two magistrates and two City Council members.

Some said they thought the committee would be able to take action with regard to Rescue operation. However, when appointed, that committee is to be an advisory group that can make suggestions as to how to change the operation of Rescue but not take official action. Phillips and Gorin will represent the county on that committee. The city has yet to appoint its members.

At the meeting on Thursday, Rogers said he had not yet signed the agreement and had heard that some magistrates aren't satisfied with it.

To begin the discussion, Gorin made a motion to approve the new agreement, which Magistrate James Jones seconded.

County Attorney John Bertram said in the new agreement, the city will simply pay all of the bills for the E-911 center and receive all the revenue it generates to do so.

Gaines, who also voted "no" to the new agreement at the joint meeting in May, said the county could have to pay more than what it has in past years - $650,000 - once Rescue and E-911 shortfalls are calculated and divided.

"I'm still where I was three months ago," he said.

Gorin said he believes the best proposal to solve funding for Rescue and E-911 was for the city and county to each operate some ambulances. That proposal, however, was voted down at the joint meeting.

"That was a doggone good proposal," he said. "And I would still vote for it."

In an e-mailed statement on Thursday afternoon, Bertram said he believes the vote at the joint meeting in May was the only vote necessary on the new agreement, provided that its contents matched what was agreed during the meeting.

A vote at the Court's meeting on Thursday, he said, was likely just to be sure that magistrates know what is in the agreement.

"In an abundance of caution, I think Judge Rodgers wanted to be sure that the magistrates were aware of the precise terms and that they had a chance to voice their comments."

If the magistrates had voted down the agreement, Bertram said, Rogers could have signed it regardless, as long as it was consistent with what magistrates voted on in May.

The new agreement will expire June 30, 2015. Bertram said it was written in a way that neither the city nor the county could break it until it expires.