Barren County accepts first reading of budget, amendments

Sheriff Kent Keen addresses the court about the need for another sheriff's deputy.

GLASGOW – Barren Fiscal Court moved ahead Tuesday with first reading of its budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year and tacked on amendments to fund an additional sheriff’s deputy and raises for county departments.

The budget totals $15.3 million without the amendments, a roughly $900,000 increase over the current fiscal year’s $14.4 million budget.

Tim Coomer was the only magistrate to vote against the budget, though he said his decision stemmed from his opposition to an amendment from Magistrate Jeff Botts.

That amendment calls for putting aside more money for employee raises, though it caps the raise any employee can receive at 3 percent. Botts said he wanted to provide county department heads the ability to determine employee wages.

“It would be at the discretion of the department heads and if they didn’t want to do it, they don’t have to do it, but if there’s a certain employee that they want to give more or whatever, I think it needs to be to their discretion and not all across the board,” he said.

County Treasurer Denise Riddle said a 3 percent raise for every county employee would total $118,000.

Coomer voted against Botts’ amendment as well as the overall budget that included the amendment.

Following the meeting, Coomer cited uncertainty surrounding local contributions to the state’s pension system that all counties will be required to make as his motivation for opposing the budget.

“It’s not that I’m against the raise, it’s just until we see what this retirement’s going to cost the county, it just scares me,” he said.

Coomer also said his objection was to the amendment rather than the budget itself. “That’s the only reason that I voted no on the first reading, because I felt like if I didn’t agree with the amendment, why would I vote yes on the budget?”

Fiscal court was unanimous, however, in voting for a budget amendment that would put aside $52,700 to pay costs associated with hiring a new sheriff’s deputy, including salary, benefits and retirement.

Sheriff Kent Keen spoke about the need for a new deputy and cited diminished assistance from Kentucky State Police because that agency’s numbers are down.

“We are handling 97 percent of the calls in Barren County,” he said. “Matter of fact, (KSP) call(s) our dispatch to say, ‘Hey, can go down there and check on this? Can you back my guy up?’ ”

Fiscal court also went into closed session to discuss “proposed or pending litigation against or on behalf of the public agency” near the start of the meeting, rather than at the end, as is normal. After about 40 minutes in closed session, fiscal court returned to open session but took no action.

In another matter, Barren County Clerk Helena Chase Birdwell announced her office is now a passport acceptance facility.

“If someone needs a passport, a first-time passport, they can come in here – we’re an approved or certified acceptance facility through the Department of State – they can walk in here and bring us their application and their photos and we can do the processing at this level and then it will be sent onto the U.S. Department of State’s passport facility for completion,” she said.

The department should be able to send the completed passport to the person by mail in two to four weeks, she said.

Birdwell said her office isn’t equipped to take passport photos, but people can go to Ship It! or Walgreens in Glasgow to have the necessary photo taken.

Birdwell said that when she worked for U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Bowling Green, his office helped numerous people secure passports, which made her want to provide the service.

“I thought if I was county clerk I would definitely make that an option for my constituents,” she said.

Anyone seeking a passport, which will cost $35, can walk into the office to register for one any weekday between 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., she said.

– Follow Daily News reporter Jackson French on Twitter @Jackson_French or visit bgdailynews.com.

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General assignment reporter focusing on features and regional coverage.

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