With nearly all governmental agencies concerned with finances but still needing to provide services, striking the right balance can be tough.
On Tuesday, Sheriff Greg Speck approached Pulaski County Fiscal Court about filling open positions within his department. The sheriff proposed filling these positions with retired certified officers rather than new hires which would most likely have to be trained at the county's expense.
"All of our police agencies in the state have trouble hiring and retaining police officers," Sheriff Speck said. "Most folks retire out at 20 years and go pursue another career."
Speck told the court that Kentucky now allows law enforcement agencies to rehire those officers without the burden of paying the benefits package, which the state covers through retirement. A new hire would cost $37,783 in benefits and training for the first year. That would drop to some $25,000 once the officer is certified.
The catch, however, is that it's hard to attract retired officers at entry-level salary (around $32,000 for the sheriff's office). So Sheriff Speck asked the court to contribute $8,000 per officer to bring the total salary to $40,000. Even with that cost, the sheriff said, the plan could save the county $17,164 per deputy due to not having to pay benefits. With three positions currently to fill, Speck said the savings add up to $51,492.63 per year.
"I believe it's fiscally responsible of us to invest $8,000 in taxpayers' money in order to save $17,164.21 per deputy," Sheriff Speck concluded. "In addition, we gain the experienced and trained deputy back."
The sheriff continued that the positions include school resource officers.
District 4 Magistrate Mark Ranshaw asked how the $40,000 salary fell in terms of the average deputy. Sheriff Speck estimated that it would be roughly equivalent to a deputy with up to seven years of experience. County Treasurer Joan Isaacs expressed concern of how the proposal could affect the 2019-20 budget, which had already been set.
"These are not new positions," Sheriff Speck stressed. "We're refilling positions that you're paying out $25,000 in benefits, so Fiscal Court should come out this year to the good."
Isaacs, however, noted that the county is already supplementing those salaries at a certain amount and wondered about adding $8,000 each to the bottom line. "Even though it's saving in benefits, it's adding on the other side when there's already money in the budget for those people," she said.
District 5 Magistrate Mike Strunk noted that those deputies would be making more anyway if they didn't retire and come back at a lower rate. District 1 Magistrate Jason Turpen added that the sheriff would most likely be filling those positions regardless, so a new hire would only cost the full amount (for training and benefits).
"We want to have enough money to cover, but it sounds like a good idea," Strunk said, making the motion.
Ranshaw asked about waiting two weeks to vote at the next fiscal court meeting, but Sheriff Speck said he had already filled two of the positions with the understanding that he would present the proposal to the court.
The magistrates did unanimously approve the plan for one-year contracts, with the sheriff promising to work with Isaacs on any budgetary concerns.
In other business, magistrates:
• heard from local accountant Jack Pigman, who presented an audit of the latest tax settlement from Sheriff Speck's office. The county's share of collections amounted to $2,080,368. The property tax collection rate for the county is approximately 98 percent.
• were presented with property tax rates as approved by the Pulaski County Public Library board of directors. Fiscal Court is not required to approved the rates but court meeting minutes must reflect they've been presented. The real property rate of 6.7 cents per $100 and personal property rate of 8.21 per $100 are up slightly from last year (6.6 and 8.06, respectively) but Library Director Charlotte Keeney noted that both are compensating rates which are recommended by the state to generate roughly the same amount of revenue as last year. The motor vehicle rate of 2.42 cents remained unchanged.
• were advised by County Attorney Martin Hatfield that the county cannot go onto private property in order to divert water flow, particularly when neighbor disputes are involved. The only instance where the county may act, Hatfield noted, is when a county road has been damaged due to water issues. In such a case, the county may do what's necessary to repair the road and return the property to its original condition.
• approved speed limits for Goldenberg Lane (15 mph), Falls Drive, Dry Branch Road (20 mph), Paradise Road and Hail Meece Road (15 mph).