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$300,000 shortfall looming

Fiscal Court gets first look at new jail budget


A more realistic jail budget was presented during last week’s regular meeting of the McCreary County Fiscal Court, but it is obvious that the jail and revenues are still a major topic of concern for the citizens of the county.

When asked if the County had enough money to pay the bills this month, Judge Executive Doug Stephens said there was for this month, but only about $33,000 would be remaining in the jail fund to cover housing for the next three months. That statement lead to a question from citizen Bill Hale asking what the increased Occupational Tax rate would do for the current budget.

Stephens sated he did not believe the revenue from the tax would provide any benefit to the County in the current fiscal year, as most revenue comes at the end of each quarter, which ends in June, and would not be received until the start of the next fiscal year in July.

“What will we do then?” he was asked.

“My prediction is we will not be able to pay every bill,” Stephens said.

Stephens acknowledged the County is also still obligated to pay back $200,000 “borrowed” from the Road Fund at the start of the fiscal year to pay insurance premiums.

The money owed to repay the cash loan from the Road Department Fund is expected to be paid through the receipt of Payment in Lieu of Taxes funds from the federal government, which is expected to be released soon.

That still leaves an estimated $300,000 shortfall looming at the end of the current fiscal year.

If Occupational Tax collections for April and May are close to the amount collected over the same period last year, the additional half percent on the OC Tax would generate about $130,000 in additional revenue – no where near enough to cover the remainder of the shortfall.

Stephens has said he and his staff were constantly looking through the current budget to try and identify any unused funding in various areas that could be freed up to cover costs over the final quarter of the fiscal year.

Earlier in the meeting Judge Stephens introduced a proposed budget for the jail for the next fiscal year.

The proposed budget for the jail seems to be more realistic than the one passed last year, with prisoner housing, medical and transport costs significantly higher than the one passed last June.

With expected costs of $1,167,208 estimated for the next fiscal year, the proposed budget is about $250,000 higher than last year.

Last year the jail budget contained an expected cost of only $600,000 for housing, a decrease of about $150,000 from the previous year.

At that time it was questioned how the County could expect to pay less in housing costs. Judge Stephens has said he “hoped” something would happen to relieve some of the financial stress on the budget for housing costs.

That did not happen.

The new budget has been increased more than $220,000 to better reflect actual costs.

Costs for deputy jailers and expected fuel expenditures have also been increased by $13,000, medical costs by $30,000 and maintenance of the transport fleet by $7,500.

As it was only a proposed budget, and a full budget is expected to be presented next month, no action from the Court was needed.

At the close of the meeting, during the portion when Magistrates can bring up additional items not on the agenda, Magistrate Roger Phillips asked to include a stipulation in the budget to hire a consultant to examine the jail situation and advise the Court on what direction they should be looking – either to pursue building a new jail, or continue to contract with other facilities.

Phillips stated a feasibility study would be a benefit for the County, as it would answer many questions about what needed to be done.

The actual meeting lasted only about 30 minutes, but citizens wishing to address the Court during the citizen participation portion of the meeting were forced to wait nearly an extra hour as the meeting was bisected by an executive session to discuss a matter concerning the Revolving Loan program. No action was taken during the executive session, and the regular meeting resumed after the interlude.

The next regular scheduled meeting of the McCreary County Fiscal Court is scheduled for Thursday, May 11 at 6:00 p.m.

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