May 18 – Thursday evening was the last night of the Somerset City Budget Workshops, with City Financial Director Mike Broyles telling council members that the budget for the coming year is a just over $ 85 million.
The final workshop was primarily dedicated to two of the city’s most visible departments, the Somerset Police Department and the Somerset-Pulaski County Emergency Department.
Among the topics discussed by Broyles and SPD leader William Hunt was the ministry’s forfeiture account, which currently has a surplus of $ 170,000.
Broyles explained that if the police do a drug deal or some other type of bust, and if there is anything left of the confiscated items from that bust after the case is resolved, then SPD gets a percentage of that money.
âThey had a really big bus this fiscal year,â Broyles explained. In addition, the department did not have to spend much during the year, which is why the forfeiture account is so important right now.
That money is carried over to the next fiscal year, Broyles said.
âThis is the only place in your budget where you are happy to exceed your budget. It means you’ve done a great job, âsaid Mayor Alan Keck. “The chef and his crew are to be congratulated.”
But while a large number in that account is seen as a good thing, the department also had to budget quite a bit – $ 240,000 – for possible retirement payments in the next fiscal year.
Chief Hunt said he was not sure everyone who qualifies for retirement will actually do so in the next 12 months, but said there are three who will and up to five. other possible.
Broyles said there were a total of 12 people who could potentially retire by June 30, 2022.
Mayor Keck responded by saying that potential retirements could be seen as both a strength and a weakness.
âThe fact that a lot of people want to stay that long and be done with the police department speaks volumes for the leader and the team they have. The weakness is that he’s going to have a lot of new people to train,â Keck mentionned.
The good news is that, at least for now, the police department was at full capacity, Hunt said.
âIt may change from week to week, but since Mayor Keck and council have worked together for the past few years our retention has been very good.
The same cannot be said for police forces across the state. Hunt explained that due to career changes in recent years, including social unrest and racial tensions seen in many parts of the state and country, fewer people are choosing to become police officers, and that means departments have to compete more for the few candidates.
Using northern Kentucky as an example, Hunt said the starting salary for law enforcement had become “astronomical” due to the competition.
The SPD doesn’t really compete with these northern districts, and their current pay scale is in line with the state average.
But, Hunt said, it wasn’t that long ago that the SPD was “overpaid by at least two other agencies in our own county.” I never want to see us come back to this again â.
Not only that, but when Hunt took over as police chief in 2017, the department’s staffing fell by almost 25%, with more retirements or planning to leave.
Speaking of the officers leaving, Hunt responded to questions from council members about whether the department still had the gyrocopter which was one of the most visible vehicles in the department.
Hunt said that when he took office, the only licensed pilot in the department retired, meaning there was no one left who was able to operate the gyrocopter.
The expense to train someone, along with the lack of interest from anyone in the department, dissuaded Hunt from training someone else to fly the helicopter, so the department decided to sell him.
âA portion of our forfeiture account still has the money from the sale of this equipment,â Hunt said. “The original plan – and what’s still the plan – for this money is to put it back into a better drone program than what we have now.”
The board also heard from SME chief Steven Eubank, who also spoke about staffing issues.
Eubank and Broyles pointed to an increase in budgeted overtime for the coming year, with Eubank explaining that this was due to a possible change in schedules.
He said that currently employees work a 24-hour shift and a 16-hour shift for a week. “We are looking at doing two 24-hour shifts. It involves overtime, and that’s why there is a big increase in overtime.”
He said the department’s salary for employees was about average for the region, but said: “We just lost an employee to Russell County, earning a similar income, but not having to work so hard. So we’re trying to increase our numbers to the point where we can reduce the overall crew workload throughout the day. “
For several years, the EMS service has been one of the two services in the city, along with the wastewater service, which is constantly losing money. While the ministry cannot go green this time around, new measures are in place to help stem the loss.
One of them, Eubank said, was using a third-party billing system.
Broyles said the department’s bad debts are decreasing because this outside company has better resources to track people with outstanding balances.
Another help came from a new and improved Medicaid program that helps supplement Medicaid billing with other federal funds.
Eubank said the federal program will not just give money to states, but match funds raised by states. Kentucky recently passed a law to impose a tax on all emergency errands and then grants each EMS service funding based on that assessment.
The Somerset-Pulaski State EMS assessment is $ 264,000, but with the federal match, the department expects to receive $ 576,000. This will greatly offset the small amount the department receives from Medicaid for billed rides compared to Medicare and private insurance companies.
âSince I’ve been in administration, Medicaid is paying us $ 110 per emergency run and $ 2 per mile, while other insurers will pay $ 14 per mile,â Eubank said.
âSo we have two highly trained staff, a very expensive truck, a lot of equipment, and we’re going to tie this truck up for two to three hours on a run, and [Medicaid] send us a check for $ 150. Thus, this payment is comparable to that of commercial insurance and Medicare. “