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Fiscal Court starts annual budget talks

The Clark County Fiscal Court opened its budget discussions Wednesday, though no one is really sure what to expect.

The budget process for counties requires the budget to be approved on two readings by the end of the fiscal year on June 30. Counties are also required to submit their budgets to the Department of Local Government for its review as well.

During nearly two hours Wednesday afternoon, the magistrates heard from a number of county and joint agencies about their budget requests for the coming fiscal year.

Clark County Judge-Executive Chris Pace said he has heard some counties are anticipating a 20 percent reduction to their overall budgets from loss of tax revenue.

“It’s an educated guess,” Pace said. “I’m going to err on the side of caution.”

Clark County Road Supervisor Allan Curtis, whose department is funded by the state, which relies on tax revenue, said he was anticipating a $382,000 reduction in funding for the new fiscal year.

Curtis said he was pursuing a $250,000 USDA grant to construct a building in Trapp which would be shared with the Clark County Fire Department. If the grant is not approved, he said the road department could construct the shell of the building for about half that amount.

Clark County Fire Chief Ernest Barnes said he would like to add three firefighter positions, as the county grows and a number of large homes are being built in rural parts of the county.

“This county is growing and people are investing a lot of money,” Barnes said.

The fire department’s staffing remains at 2003 levels, he said.

Earlier this year, the court voted to significantly reduce funding to the Clark County Sheriff’s Office and shift health insurance and other expenses from the county to the sheriff.

Clark County Sheriff Berl Perdue Jr. said he thought his staff could continue 24-7 patrols through the end of 2020, but wasn’t sure about beyond. Perdue asked the county to restore about $200,000 in funding to maintain staff levels.

“There’s only one place I can take that from and it’s payroll,” he said. “That means a reduction of staff and salaries.

“It’s a lot of money we hadn’t paid before. We’re not buying cars this year.”

Clark County Attorney William Elkins said there is no timeline when counties can begin collecting on delinquent property taxes either, as they have been suspended for the pandemic.

The court also heard presentations from the county animal shelter, parks and recreation, emergency management, tourism, industrial development, the jail and the coroner’s office during Wednesday’s meeting.

Pace said he will assemble a budget and present it to the Fiscal Court.

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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