Kentucky State Police has suspended a program that allowed the agency to hire retired troopers with at least 20 years of experience on a contract basis.
KSP Commissioner Rodney Brewer said the agency terminated the one-year contracts of 20 troopers in the Trooper R Class program Friday during a meeting in Frankfort. The move is expected to save KSP about $1.25 million of a projected $5.8 million shortfall in the fiscal year 2014 budget, Brewer said.
KSP Post 12 in Frankfort would lose three troopers in the program, which began in 2009, he said. The troopers in the R class could only work in the field, not special operations, and did not receive fringe benefits such as health insurance.
“It was a painful decision for me,” Brewer said in a telephone interview Monday. “Not only was that my program that I dreamed up, but also obviously it affects those troopers and ultimately coverage at several of our posts.”
KSP has sustained significant cuts in its federal funding, down more than 50 percent in the last five years. The agency received $31 million five years ago, but that figure has dropped to $14.8 million this year, Brewer said.
At the same time, costs have risen. Personnel, fuel and cars now make up 90 percent of the agency’s budget, while pension contributions have doubled in the same five-year period, up to nearly $42 million last year, Brewer said.
KSP has undertaken initiatives to cut fuel costs, reducing fuel consumption by 11 percent, Brewer said. Still, fuel costs rose $900,000.
KSP has avoided dramatic cuts in its state funding, but still had to trim costs. State appropriations are down 2 percent in the current biennium, Brewer said.
“There’s been a host of things that have contributed to this,” he said. “There’s really not one thing you can put your finger on.”
Kerri Richardson, spokeswoman for Gov. Steve Beshear, said public safety has remained a top priority for Beshear. He has “consistently fought” to lessen the recession’s impact on KSP’s budget, she said, noting other state agencies dealt with larger budget cuts of more than 8 percent in the current biennium.
“KSP does an outstanding job in protecting our citizens and patrolling our highways, and any cuts are difficult,” Richardson said in a statement. “We long ago reached a point where there are few painless options left when balancing agencies’ budgets. We will continue to work closely with KSP to ensure public safety is protected.”
The compounded budget constraints necessitated suspending the Trooper R Class program, but Brewer said he hopes to reinstate it once the agency’s budget outlook brightens.
Half of the state’s KSP posts will be affected by the contract terminations, Brewer said. There are 62 cadets expected to graduate the state police academy in November, which he called “a glimmer of hope” to the personnel cuts.
“We will realign our manpower allocations as to where they’re going to be positioned and stationed at, but that will leave us several weeks with some gaps that we didn’t anticipate and the posts will have to shore those up until we get the manpower out of here to those post assignments,” Brewer said.