(Leitchfield, KY) – A reoccurring deficient in the City of Leitchfield’s budget has the council faced with some “tough decision,” according to Mayor William Thomason.
The discussion surrounding the deficient and dwindling surplus was the result of a two hour meeting where multiple topics were discussed, including the needs of the new Leitchfield Police Chief.
Chief Kevin Henderson took the helm on April 1, 2013 and has spent some time in the past month assessing the department’s needs and collecting bids.
During the council meeting, he began to expose some large numbers it would take to update the officer’s equipment, make repairs at the station, replace cruisers and reinstate the same number of officers the city had employed when Henderson left the force in the late 1990’s.
When Henderson left to become a Kentucky State Trooper there were 17 officers employed at the LPD. Today, there are 14 officers, including Henderson.
Henderson said not only does the vehicle fleet need to be updated – citing two cars are costing between $200 - $500 weekly for maintenance, but computers have become obsolete at the department, and the lack of equipment has prevented the officers from processing e-warrants – forcing the department to use County Attorney Clay Ratley’s office to process the e-warrants. He said police departments are mandated by Kentucky law to have a backup server when processing e-warrants and the station currently does not have a backup server.
The station itself is showing signs of its age; the heat and air units are starting to fail and are being “patched” together.
The city took money from their surplus in fiscal year 2012-2013 to purchase two new Chevrolet Capris from Dan Powers Chevrolet. The new cars are still approximately 45 days from delivery. Henderson requested two more vehicles be purchased in July 2013, when the new fiscal year begins, leaving him with only one vehicle that needs to be replaced due to high miles. He said he would like to get on a yearly rotation with the police cruisers, buying one a year and rotating out the oldest car.
The council considered purchasing two new Dodge Chargers from a vendor in Louisville; vehicles that are priced at $24,415, $2,435 less than the Chevrolet Capris’, and are in stock. Mayor William Thomason urged the council to keep the business in Leitchfield and buy local, using Dan Powers Chevrolet, even at a higher price. Mayor Thomason reminded the council of Dan Powers’s investment into local sports. No formal action was taken, but Councilwoman Margaret Fey voiced her opposition to spending more money on the vehicles just to buy local.
Henderson obtained two bids for a new computer system. The first bid was for $11,200 and was from Leading Edge Network, owner Lee Halloway (Hardin County). The second bid was for $14,000 and was from Up Time Computer Consulting, owner Robby Lindsey. He said he spoke with Kentucky Telephone, owner Joey McClung, but they were not interested in giving a bid.
After stating his case, Councilman Steven Elder made a motion to take money from the city’s surplus and purchase the computers the department needed from Leading Edge Network. Councilman Harold Miller seconded the motion. Henderson said he had worked with Halloway in the past while employed with the Greater Hardin County Drug Task Force, where Halloway installed their computer system. The council approved the motion.
The cost to add manpower carried a much higher price tag. “I know the city has to have money to support things like this. I know the police department doesn’t generate any income,” said Henderson.
Putting a new officer on the beat could cost the city as much as $100,000 the first year. The estimated costs are broken down as follows:
The city has suffered a total loss of $1,617,783 over the decade. The largest loss was in 2008 when the city used $1.2 million surplus funds to purchase acreage on Hwy 54 for future industrial expansion.
Councilman Steven Elder noted that most cities fund their police and fire departments with the income the cities earn through insurance premium taxes. Leitchfield’s insurance premium tax rate is 4%, one of the lowest in the states, according to Elder.
“We need to find the money to do the things the chief wants to do at the police department. Between now and the next meeting, or the one after that, we need to figure out what to do for him. We need to look at this quickly and not kick the can down the road to the next council,” said Elder.
Mayor Thomason said “In order to make up this $300,000 shortfall; we’ve not raised the garbage rate since 2003. If you raise the insurance premium tax you would make up the $300,000 shortfall plus $100,000 profit.”
Mayor pushed the council to consider raising the garbage rates in small increments that keeps up with the inflation rate that Ohio County bale field charges the city each year, instead of charging a large rate when the surplus is gone. He also urged the council to decide how they felt about raising the insurance premium tax rates. He said the city could not continue losing money and depending on its surplus; saying the surplus would one day be gone and the council would be forced to raise garbage rates, insurance premium tax rates, and property tax rates to balance the city’s budget.
Leitchfield’s Insurance Premium Tax Rate is 4%. Industry average for Kentucky Class 4 cities is 7.5%. Caneyville’s IPTR is 5.2% and Clarkson’s IPTR is 5%. Elizabethtown’s IPTR is 8%. Here is a list of every Kentucky city’s Insurance Premium Tax Rate for 2013. Click here, scroll down the page and click the first link under Resources.
The council met in executive session Monday evening to discuss the sale of the land. Mayor William Thomason released few details, saying it would be used for industry that is looking at another expansion.