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Fiscal court has last county budget workshop meeting

The Clark County Fiscal Court finished its budget workshops Wednesday, with the question of retirement contributions still hanging overhead.

Though the Kentucky legislature overrode Gov. Matt Bevin’s veto of a bill allowing cities and counties to phase-in increased retirement contributions, Clark County Judge-Executive Henry Branham said Wednesday he has not been told which figures to use in the 2019 budget.

For Clark County, the expected increase for retirement is $600,000. The City of Winchester, which usually begins its budget discussions in late May, is looking at a $1.1 million increase.

With the phase-in, Branham said the county’s increase would drop to about $70,000.

Branham said he called the Department of Local Government recently for guidance, and was told the discussion was ongoing.

“It’s going to be very tight with the projected $600,000 increase,” Branham told the magistrates Wednesday.

Branham said the total county budget would be presented to the magistrates for public discussion during the fiscal court’s regular meeting next week. The first reading of the county budget must be approved by May 1 so it can be approved by state officials. Any changes made by the state must remain when the second reading of the budget ordinance occurs.

There were retirement increases across the board for county departments, including more than $181,000 for the Clark County Fire Department alone.

The magistrates heard presentations from about a dozen agencies Wednesday morning, including the animal shelter, the road department, the fire department and Winchester Fire-EMS. The city and county share expenses for 911 communications and the ambulance service.

Winchester City Manager Matt Belcher requested $650,000 for the county’s portion of the ambulance service for the new fiscal year and another $425,000 for 911. Belcher said both revenue and run volume are up for the ambulance service, which only helps the county.

“Ultimately if billing revenue is up … it’s less of a burden on taxpayer dollars,” he said.

Clark County Fire Chief Ernie Barnes offered a budget with an increase of nearly $534,000 from the current budget of $2.07 million. Part of that is retirement, but Barnes also included nearly $30,000 for a new large diameter hose and $12,000 for a new roof on Station 1.

He also requested funds for several new vehicles, including two four-wheel-drive crew cab pickup trucks for the chief and the training officer, and leases for a new tanker and a new pumper. Barnes said the department’s tanker is a converted milk tanker that is at the end of its life. Two of the department’s current fire trucks are also nearing the end of their useful life, and the two staff vehicles are old and in poor repair.

County Road Supervisor Kevin Wilson presented a budget for the road department with a $257,000 increase which also included several vehicles. He proposed a 10-year lease for a new excavator, a seven-year lease for two one-ton dump trucks and purchasing a third one-ton dump truck outright. He also included an increase in county funding for road resurfacing of about $67,000, as state funds continue to dwindle.

About Fred Petke

Fred Petke is a reporter for The Winchester Sun. His beats include cops, courts, fire, public records, city and county government and other news. To contact Fred, email fred.petke@winchestersun.com or call 859-759-0051.

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