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By SHARON GRAVES
The Carroll County Attorney’s office is facing budget cuts that could include salary reductions by as much as 15.8 percent, effective Jan. 1.
The commonwealth is dealing with a budget shortfall that may force county attorneys statewide to cut more than $1.1 million total from their budgets over the next six months, said Bill Patrick, executive director of the Kentucky County Attorneys Association, in a recent news release.
Carroll County Attorney Jim Monk was forced to cut salaries for his staff by 4 percent earlier this year, and isn’t sure how to cut any more from his payroll.
“Times are tight, very tight,” Monk said.
Some offices are considering putting employees on furloughs, (unpaid time off), or closing their offices one day a week.
Monk said he has no plans to do either of those things; the only way to reduce costs is to cut salaries, which he said will definitely hurt his employees.
“We have a small office, but we are extremely busy,” Monk said. “I work on a very tight budget. “I’m not going to lay anyone off, because I can’t afford” to close the office because of the workload.
Monk’s office in the Wheeler Hall of Justice on Clay Street has a part-time assistant, Nick Marsh; a secretary, Brenda Raker; and a part-time receptionist, Anita Burkett. It is seperate from his law office on Fifth Street.
The county attorney’s office has a contract with the state to administer child-support collection laws. He has two employees for that task, but they are contract workers and not state or county employees. The potential cuts, therefore, won’t affect them, Monk said.
Monk’s salary is set by statute and Marsh and Raker, are paid by funds allocated by the state. Burkett is paid with money from fees collected by the office.
Monk’s office collects fees when they receive reimbursement for “cold” checks, those written on accounts with insufficient funds, and delinquent taxes.
But fees from cold checks are declining, Monk said. “The two biggest stores [in Carroll County], Kroger and Walmart, went to a private company to collect their cold checks,” Monk said. “We don’t have much of a delinquent tax problem, so we don’t collect much there either.”
“The county provides our office space and phone [service],” Monk said. “They also provide insurance for our two child-support case workers.” Gov. Steve Beshear has asked state agencies to trim their budgets by 4 percent for the last half of the current state fiscal year – Jan. 1 through June 30.
The mandate has brought concern for its ultimate affect on county attorneys’ offices statewide.
“These budget cuts will have a dramatic and devastating effect on the ability of county attorneys to prosecute crime, protect victims of child abuse and domestic violence, and prosecute DUI offenders,” Christian County Attorney Mike Foster, a member of the Prosecutors Advisory Council and president of the Kentucky Association of Counties said,