Fiscal Court will spend $2.2 million more next year and give $500 raises across the board for county employees, according to a 2012-2013 fiscal year budget proposal released Friday.
The court had its first reading of the $24.85 million budget at its meeting Friday and said most of the $2.2 million increase will go toward rising insurance costs and a new fire station.
The court decided to something different for this year’s employee raises. Instead of a 1-2 percent across-the-board raise, which the court has granted in previous years, county employees will each receive $500 more.
Magistrate Larry Perkins proposed at an earlier meeting giving each employee the same raises rather than a set percentage so they would be equal.
But magistrates Huston Wells and Lambert Moore expressed concern on the new rate.
“Someone with 20 years of experience getting the same raise as someone with six months experience … I don’t think that’s right,” Moore said.
While Wells said some of his constituents disapproved of the $500, he said he’s interested on how others feel about the new rate. Judge-Executive Ted Collins agreed with the wait-and-see approach.
“I can support it for a one-time deal,” Collins said at the meeting. “I understand where Squire Perkins is coming from. This gives the lower tier an initial boost … I probably won’t support this in the future but I applaud Larry for bringing it to court.”
More than $200,000 of the budget will go toward increases in employee health insurance and retirement costs, but the county fire department will be receiving the bulk of the budget increase.
Included in the budget is $1.7 million for a new fire station and expanding the one at Chenault Road.
The county fire department is also receiving $625,000 to buy a fire pumper and tanker.
The fire department was also allotted an extra $60,000 for administration staff, with much of that going toward the hiring of an assistant fire chief.
At a March 23 work session for the budget, Chief Gary Watts said he was “probably retiring for good” next year, and asked the court to fund an assistant fire chief’s position so Watts can train his replacement.
More funds are also going to the Parks Department and the Coroner’s Office. Parks is set to receive $65,000 to go toward new lawn mowers for Lakeview Park and the coroner will get $45,000 for a new van.
The additional $2.2 million will come from the “rainy day fund,” bonds and cuts to last year’s budget, said Collins after the meeting.
Collins said the court is in talks with several financial institutions and the Kentucky Association of Counties about bonding the new fire station and other projects, and the court is also considering taking money from its reserves, or “rainy day fund.”
The court also made cuts in several areas, including about $50,000 from the Road Department, a lawn mower from the Parks Department and giving the fire department two trucks instead of the four it sought.
It’s a process that has been “most difficult,” Collins said.
“Most everybody had good projects and wanted to do good things for the community … so it really is difficult to say, ‘This one gets this and the other gets that,’ but when it’s all said and done, nobody ever feels like they get what they really need,” Collins said.
“But you just do the best you can when you make these decisions and hope for the best.”
New line items on the proposed budget included $7,500 for a county wellness program and $13,000 for a sustainability coordinator.
Collins said he’s been in talks with the city and Frankfort Plant Board about hiring a sustainability coordinator who would serve all three entities, with the county, city and FPB splitting the coordinator’s salary.
But the fate of that line item is in question, after Moore and Magistrate Phillip Kring said they wouldn’t vote for a budget that included that expense.
After the meeting, Collins said he was satisfied with the budget proposal.
“I think it a great budget,” Collins told The State Journal. “We spent a lot of time on it … debated, added a few things and then took some things out. It’s like making sausage – it’s a messy, messy deal, but it’s really good when you get through with it.”
Since it was a first reading, no action was taken on the budget. The budget is set for a second reading and approval at the May 24 Fiscal Court meeting.