Magistrates make budget cut proposals

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By Jonna Spelbring Priester

One month after being asked to find $150,000 to $250,000 to trim out of the Henry County budget, the committee appointed to do so devised a series of proposals that could result in at least a $290,000 gain.

Magistrate Nick Hawkins chaired the committee, and last week presented several proposals to the fiscal court.

The bulk of the gain relies upon non-emergency EMS transports, to the tune of $150,000 to $300,000 per year.

The non-emergency transports, primarily for dialysis patients, once were a key part of the EMS budget, but had fallen from one or two transports per year to none.

By the time Hawkins met with EMS director Josh Jemiel, Henry County EMS was back up to two transports.

Those transports, Hawkins said, are $1,000 in revenue per trip. At three trips per week, that’s a little over $150,000 in annual revenue per transport.

“That makes a huge difference in our budget,” Hawkins said. “And those rates are set by the federal government.”

In its proposals, the budget committee set up two scenarios based on the EMS transports.

“It’s hard to rely on this revenue in our budget, unfortunately, because some of these people pass away,” Hawkins said. “Obviously, their life is more important than our revenue, but it does affect our budget, so you have to consider it. So we talked about trying to set up our expenses in such a way that it reflected our revenue.”

The first scenario assumes EMS will maintain two transports, in which staffing does not change.

The second scenario assumes EMS has just one transport. In that case, EMS night-shift staffing will switch to one EMT and one paramedic, reducing the night shift by one employee, and saving the county $41,000.

“If our revenue starts to drop, we have a fail safe in place to say we’ll cut our expenses to go along with it,” Hawkins said.

Another piece of the savings comes in a proposal to consolidate the volunteer EMS service with the paid service, a net gain to the county of about $22,500.

And finally, in regards to EMS, Henry County now has a contract with Trimble County to do paramedic intercepts for Trimble, who operates a BLS service.

Previously, Oldham County’s EMS service conducted 10 paramedic intercepts per month for Trimble. The budget committee’s proposal includes a “conservative” estimate of five intercepts per month, for about $18,000 in increased revenue.

Other cuts

The county could cut subsidies for the popular road side cleanup program.

While the county receives a grant for the program, it subsidized about $4,000 for additional volunteer groups to help pick up liter from county roads.

A contract with Brammell & Clubb will be eliminated. The law firm was utilized when the county first went to mandatory garbage pick up, and several residents weren’t willing to participate. Brammell and Clubb helped the county to cite violators, take them to court and handle the cases. Hawkins said those cases have declined significantly, and the county attorney’s office will take on this particular duty, saving the county $5,000.

The county will bid out janitorial services for the courthouse annex, and the Administrative Office of the Courts is paying for a janitor for the courthouse itself — which is solely occupied now by district and circuit court. Net savings: $3,000.

Then, the committee looked at potential savings in the county parks. There, the county will lay off part-time parks workers during the winter months (November through April), and better utilize them during peak periods. Net savings: $5,100.

The committee also slashed the parks’ improvement line item from $12,000 to $2,000. A separate line item still exists for park repairs, but capital improvements at the parks will be significantly reduced. “That was a tough one,” Hawkins said, “because we want to continue trying to improve the parks. We figure it’s something we can hold off on for a couple of years.”

The committee also looked at eliminating some overtime in the sheriff’s office, going from $13,400 to $3,400 in overtime. Doing so also will reduce retirement and social security contributions, for a net savings of $14,000.

Finally, a budgeted raise for county employees could be cut in half, from 37.5 cents per hour to 18.75 cents per hour. Net savings: $18,000.

The effect on services

Hawkins knows some residents will be concerned about how the cuts will affect services, and he shares that concern.

“I think it’s a difficult position for a public servant to be in,” he said. “It’s not something someone looks forward to… but at the same time, your number one responsibility is to be a good steward of tax dollars.”

While no action was taken on the proposals in the Fiscal Court’s Sept. 18 meeting, Hawkins believes the court may vote on them in the October meeting.

In the meantime, he will meet with EMS and Sheriff Danny Cravens to discuss their concerns.

While the overtime cuts in the sheriff’s office will mean some reduced coverage, Hawkins said proposed reductions in EMS staffing shouldn’t affect residents.

“I don’t think they’ll really see a change. I think we hope to incorporate some of our own employees into being able to use (volunteer) ambulances in the future, and partner with (our volunteers).”


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