McCracken County leader answers sheriff’s budget concerns

McCracken County Sheriff Jon Hayden cited concerns for your safety and security when presenting his argument regarding funding during the county’s fiscal court workshop for the 2016-2017 budget Wednesday. 

Hayden said it’s an issue of dollars. In this presentation, Hayden outlined several issues, but one was the pay discrepancy between deputies in the county and police officers in the city. Paducah police officers are paid an average of $10,000 more a year than McCracken County deputies. Click here for Hayden’s opening statement.

Hayden said because of that figure, he’s having trouble hiring, training, and retaining deputies. McCracken County

Judge Executive Bob Leeper said this morning if the county can inject any more money into the sheriff’s budget. He told me it’s a priority, but it’s a work in progress.

At budget time, everyone is stretched thin. McCracken County Judge Executive Bob Leeper said he does his own research to make sure facts, figures, and all the amounts are correct. “It’s a very tedious puzzle to put together," he said.

Leeper said within a budget, he can move some funds around but not others. "You have to look at one-time money, you have to look at recurring revenue," he said.

But Leeper says he knows what’s not in the budget: a number to boost more money for the sheriff’s office. “I don’t know if there’s revenue available without some sort of revenue enhancement," he said. He was talking about a tax. There isn’t a current tax for the sheriff’s office, but Leeper said a tax is just one possible solution to a problem with many parts.

“The bottom of it is we lost two very good deputies to the city,” said Leeper.

Leeper said he can’t increase the sheriff’s department’s budget until county leaders hear all the parts and can move them around, although he knows it’s impossible to put a price on a life.

“Public safety is obviously a priority,” said Leeper.

Leeper said all the department heads have made their budget proposals and presentations, but there are more budget workshops scheduled in the future.

Leeper noted the stressful nature of putting together a budget. We were told that, during the meeting, he voiced his frustration about his job —that he was asked by others to run for judge executive.

“I can tell you I can’t walk through the door without someone asking me for a pay raise, and if it was my money, I’d hand them a check out of my pocket," Leeper said. "But it’s the taxpayers’ money…I have to be cognizant of the taxpayers while I try to balance this out.”

Sheriff Hayden responded to Leeper, telling Local 6 he can no longer sustain current funding and staffing levels.  He said of the 19 deputies, nine are looking for employment at other agencies that offer better pay and benefits – including at Paducah Police.  Sheriff Hayden said, "f McCracken County can’t afford any longer to maintain a professional law enforcement agency, be it the sheriff’s office, then so be it.  But, let’s be honest with the citizens.  If we can’t afford it, let’s not halfway do this.  Let’s not halfway fund this. The citizens in the county deserve the same level of service that they are getting in the city limits of Paducah.

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