Budget time is always stressful for government officials trying to balance departmental wishlists and actual revenues.
But the first reading of the 2017-18 budget next week was heard Tuesday morning by Pulaski County Fiscal Court with little discussion as officials previously reviewed the draft in workshop the week prior. Some welcome news the in the budget draft is that county employees can expect a raise come July 1.
County Treasurer Joan Isaacs advised during the May 2 budget workshop that the county can afford to give its employees a 50-cent-per hour raise. The raise would affect all full-time employees except for elected officials and those working with the offices of Sheriff Greg Speck and County Clerk Linda Burnett. Because they run fee offices, they set their own budgets.
Though the employees have gotten a quarter raise the last two years, Judge-Executive Steve Kelley noted that they didn’t get anything for four years before that. He questioned whether doubling the raise given this year over last might unduly increase expectations for next year.
“Most of the employees know [it can change] from year to year,” District 5 Magistrate Mike Strunk said, adding he would like to see the employees get the 50 cents if the county has the money.
After the meeting, Judge Kelley said magistrates were trying to be fair to all employees in light of other requests pertaining to the jail and sheriff’s office.
“Our people work hard,” Kelley said. “The way prices go up…if you don’t give them something, they are basically going backward. We’re going to try to help when we can and let them know we appreciate them.”
While the fiscal court doesn’t set salaries for deputies, Sheriff Speck has presented requests before to help keep his department competitive.
This year, Sheriff Speck asked the county for $140,000 to go toward the salaries of 35 full-time, certified deputies.
Speck explained that he had researched departments in counties with similar population, number of sworn personnel and/or had been accredited — finding that local deputies were earning an average of $5,600 less per year.
The amount requested would not completely bridge that gap but does represent a $4,000 increase for the deputies and would bring the department’s entry-level salary to $32,000 per year.
“I just want to be competitive,” Sheriff Speck said. “Not as many people are getting into law enforcement as there used to be.”
The sheriff noted that the funding would not be applied toward his own salary, which is already determined by statute. The same is true for the offices of Judge-Executive, County Clerk, and Jailer.
Magistrates could have voted to include themselves among county employees given a raise but opted not to. That practice goes back at least 12 years, the tenures of Mike Wilson and Glenn Maxey — the longest serving magistrates on the court.
Budget line items won’t be finalized until the second reading of the budget ordinance (pending approval by the Kentucky Department for Local Government).