Fayette County budget may go up again; healthcare, fuel costs blamed

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With a projected revenue decline of $2.1 million for the coming fiscal year, combined with escalating gas and healthcare costs, the upcoming budget hearings for the Fayette County Commission look to be those of further belt-tightening.

Giving a brief budget overview at the commission’s Wednesday workshop meeting, County Manager Jack Krakeel noted that the budget he’s recommending, at $75 million, is 1.6 percent over the figure approved for the current year’s budget.

The budget increase is necessary because of the significant escalation in healthcare costs, both for employees and also for inmate healthcare at the Fayette County Jail, for starters, Krakeel said. Fuel costs are expected to jump $300,000 alone, he noted.

Meanwhile, the county’s tax digest is slated to take about a 4 percent dip this year, meaning a shrinkage in anticipated property tax revenues, Krakeel said.

The budget includes no new staff positions despite a request for 17 new personnel, Krakeel said. County departments have been under a hiring freeze for the past several years, with an exclusion for public safety personnel.

That has meant that as employees have resigned or retired, in most situations they have not been replaced with a new hire; instead the workload is spread out among existing staffers, officials have said.

The commission is slated to hold its budget hearings May 23 and 24.