County tentatively approves 25 new positions

Tue, 03/20/2007 - 3:05pm
By: John Thompson

During two lengthy days of budget discussions last week, the Fayette County Commission wrangled with requests for more than 49 new positions. When the dust had settled, the commission decided to give a temporary OK to 25 full-time positions and six part-time posts.

But in order to fund the positions, the board took a creative approach.

“I’m not going to vote for a tax increase,” said Commissioner Eric Maxwell.

The main problem facing the board is lack of money. To fund the new positions along with a 3.3 percent cost of living increase, promotions and a 2 percent pay for performance raise, the board learned the cost would be $2.4 million. Based on preliminary revenue estimates, the county would fall either $1.2 million short if they did not roll back the assessments or $1.7 million with a rollback.

The commission tentatively decided to use some of the fire fund’s $1.8 million unrestricted funds to hire seven additional firefighters for two of the county’s busiest stations.

Public Safety Division Director Jack Krakeel told the board that this would allow him to have a minimum of three firefighters on a truck. The national standard is four firemen, but Krakeel is starting a six-year plan that would have three firefighters at all the stations. With the average size of a new home in the county at 4,500 square feet, Krakeel is concerned that only two, sometimes inexperienced, firefighters, are first on the scene.

For the general fund requests, the county will look at using unused revenue from this year’s budget, which is about $400,000, according to finance director Mary Holland, and funding set aside for capital projects this year.

Capital projects will be funded by taking funds from unrestricted funds in the county’s reserve funds, which stands at $2.3 million.

The reason the approvals are tentative is the County Commission still has to examine the maintenance and operation budget in May. If the budget is too high in May, many of the positions will be eliminated.

If the positions stay, the biggest winner may have been the sheriff’s department. For the first time since the unit was established in 1989, the County Commission agreed to add three officers to the Drug Task force.

“I think it’s justified. I was impressed by their presentation,” said Commission Chairman Jack Smith.

The traffic division will also get two new officers, so Major Wayne Hannah’s division will now be able to patrol the county’s roads between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. Currently, the only patrol cars on the road during those hours are used by the patrol division, which goes out on resident calls and burglar alarm calls.

The administrative division of the sheriff’s department will get a compliance officer, but its request for an information technology person was nixed.

“I thing we can handle that with our information department,” said Smith.

The county commission office will get a deputy clerk, to help deal with the public and help out the small department.

“We haven’t had a new person added in 25 years,” said Executive Assistant Carol Chandler.

Other new positions include a building plans examiner, a program coordinator in the recreation department and one library assistant.

Smith looked at the past hiring practices and said the county is working towards achieving a balance.

“Public safety has had the emphasis every year. You can lose balance to the detriment of the other departments. We have to strike a balance and can’t allow an overemphasis on public safety,” he said.

The final county budget must be approved by June 30.

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