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County approves first reading of 2021 budget

Clark County officials approved the first reading of the fiscal year 2021 budget Thursday night.

The vote was unanimous in favor of the $16.2 million county budget, but there were a number of changes proposed during Thursday’s meeting, particularly in the jail budget.

Given the uncertainty surrounding the economy, revenue and expenses, the budget is a document that will likely be revised several times by the end of June 2021.

“The question is how soon will we recover and will we recover,” Clark County Judge-Executive Chris Pace said during discussion of the jail budget.

“Each quarter we could review the budget,” Magistrate Daniel Konstantopoulos said. “We could always to a budget amendment.”

“We’ll have to evaluate a good part of the budget on a quarterly basis,” Magistrate Greg Elkins said. “We don’t really know what the expenses will be. We’ll make our best guess now and our best guess later.”

Since the coronavirus pandemic hit in March, Kentucky jails have not been accepting out-of-county prisoners and revenue generated by state prisoners is down more than anticipated.

Magistrate Travis Thompson said he spoke with Jailer Frank Doyle Wednesday, and was told he had to lay off 14 jail employees. Bath County, which contracts with Clark County to house its prisoners, was also coming to pick up its prisoners, Thompson said.

Konstantopoulos said revenue from state prisoners would be down $300,000 to $400,000.

A number of recommendations were made to reduce budgeted revenue for the jail with commensurate cuts in expenses, including a road deputy for state prisoners, jail employee salaries and water and sewer expenses.

The amendments regarding the jail budget were approved unanimously.

The overall budget included pay increases for county employees. Magistrate Robert Blanton suggested freezing salaries, hiring and new equipment purchases, calling it a “prudent” decision for the times.

“In regard to salaries, I think that’s a good idea,” Pace said. “For equipment purchases … we could budget for them and not spend it.”

Actions regarding salaries, though, would take a separate action beyond amending the budget, Konstantopoulos said.

Elkins, though, was adamantly opposed to removing employee raises.

“They need it now more than ever,” he said.

Blanton ultimately withdrew his motion.

Sheriff Berl Perdue Jr. also said he believed he could continue with 24-hour patrol by deputies after the Fiscal Court clarified it would continue paying the retirement and FICA expenses for the sheriff’s office.

With a successful first reading, the budget must now be reviewed by the Department of Local Government prior to a second reading by the fiscal court. The second reading must be approved by the end of the fiscal year, which is June 30.

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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