At a meeting of the Harlan County Fiscal Court on Thursday, Magistrate David Kennedy and other members of the court agreed the county is now “flirting with a financial crisis” and are asking every department, especially the Harlan County Sheriff’s Office to make cutbacks.
“You know this court has been preaching, and I hope we’ve not been preaching to the choir, on actually doing serious cuts,” said Kennedy. “An example in the county road garage when somebody is transferred, fired or retired, we’ve not been replacing them. As far as your department, do you see a need to replace each and every deputy as they leave?”
Harlan County Sheriff Marvin Lipfird said he will not replace deputies at this time unless he loses five or more at one time. He said he now has a total of 24 employees in his department.
“I’ve noticed you have an extreme amount of overtime in your department, is that necessary?” asked Kennedy. “What about your office staff overtime?”
Lipfird said a lot of overtime has now been cut. He said he does have a $10,000 highway safety grant which will reimburse the county for some of the overtime listed. He continued by saying his office staff did get overtime the first week of tax collection. He also said a lot of overtime comes from District Court Judge Jeff Brock not beginning his court until late in the day and his staff having to stay late. He told court members he will now tell his staff to leave at 4:30 p.m.
“You have my word, all this overtime will disappear,” said Lipfird. “You have my word, I won’t be replacing people. I made a lot of cuts last year. If it comes down to it, I will sit down with fiscal court and do more than my fair share of cuts. I have before and I will again.”
Kennedy said as he looked at the sheriff’s budget he is seeing increases after the court had asked every department to make cuts.
“We’re butchering all these other departments to pieces,” said Kennedy. “Our backs are against the wall.”
All members of the court complained they only received a copy of the sheriff’s budget on the day of the meeting and would have liked to have gotten it a week in advance to review the contents and suggest cuts.
“I would have liked to have looked at this budget ahead of time,” said Magistrate Delbert Stephens. “I’d like to compare it to last year’s budget.”
“If we approve the sheriff’s budget and we end up in a financial crisis, which I honestly believe we’re flirting with right now, and we have to come back and make cuts, can we single out his department or will we have to make blanket cuts?” asked Kennedy.
After a lengthy discussion asking the Harlan County Attorney Fred Busroe if the sheriff’s budget can be amended if the county gets into a financial crisis, Busroe said across the board cuts can be made to every department, but one department can’t be singled out for cuts to help the county out of a financial crisis.
“Well, we now have your word Marvin you’re going to try your best to run the sheriff’s department less than this budget,” said Kennedy. “We have your word you won’t replace anyone, so it sounds like you have gotten the message.”
Lipfird increased his 2013 budget by $5,220.20 as compared to his 2012 budget. He said he is expecting health insurance, Social Security, retirement and other things such as that to increase in the coming year.
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