By JULIA ROBERTS GOAD
PIKEVILLE, Ky. - The Pike County Fiscal Court discussed the budget for the County’s upcoming fiscal year, and some proposed additions to that budget, but an unexpected surplus is a point of debate.
Judge-Executive Wayne T. Rutherford said the Court is mandated by Kentucky code to have a balanced budget, and the Fiscal Court, through due diligence, has managed for find funds in a year that the County’s financial outlook has been dim.
Rutherford said additional funds were made available from coal severance funds and cost cutting measures such as a $5,000 limit for expenditures without express consent and a new purchase order system.
“We are able to do some things for our employees now,” Rutherford said.
The proposed budget additions add up to $413,000, and include $220,000 for a cost of living pay increase for County employees.
Other items that could be funded with the additional funds include $75,000 to operate the County’s public swimming pools, caretakers for parks and the purchase of two voting machines.
But one of the six magistrates said he felt using the $413,000 for additions to the County’s budget was not a fiscally sound measure for the Court to take. When asked to vote for or against the additions, District Six Magistrate was the lone dissenting vote.
“What we are voting on here, to me, is the County’s budget,” Harris said. “What we are doing is not a responsible spending plan or budget.”
Harris said the County had been looking at a shortfall, and the Fiscal Court needs to be planning for such a shortfall in the future.
“A month or a month and a half ago, we were talking about laying people off and discussing new taxes,” he told the Court. “Luckily, we had a good coal severance quarter, and a mild winter, which resulted in low road maintenance costs and heating bills. But if our budget is that sensitive to changes in the weather, it is not responsible for us to take money that is leftover and put it into some of the things that are under discussion.”
Harris said he feels the County should look ahead.
“I have a different philosophy,” he said. “I think we should be putting money back to deal with an economic setback. Economic indications are not as good for next year. We need to put that money in an account to give our employees job security.”
He said raises and improvements to health insurance are good, but that using extra money for those things now is “borrowing against the future.”
Magistrate Harris’ vote was the lone “no” on the budget amendments.