HAZARD—Barely three weeks after major layoffs were announced for the Perry County Sheriff’s Office, the Kentucky State Police (KSP) have announced a budget shortfall for this fiscal year that will lead to several cutbacks — most significantly in personnel.
KSP Commissioner Rodney Brewer said the agency discovered in late July of this year, after budget projections for the 2014 fiscal year were calculated, that the agency will fall $5.8 million short of its budget for fiscal year 2013. On Aug. 23, Brewer made the announcement that due to this shortfall a program called the Trooper R program would have to be cut completely from the budget, consequently laying off 20 contractual troopers and saving a projected $1.25 million by June 30.
“In my 10 years as commissioner, quite frankly, except for a trooper being injured or hurt, this has been a very, very tough time for me,” Brewer said while speaking at a Kentucky River Area Development District (KRADD) luncheon last week.
Brewer told the Herald that the program, which he implemented in 2009, was put in place to hire back, on a contractual basis, troopers who had retired with 20 or more years of KSP service.
“We were getting pennies on the dollar from my perspective because you’ve got a seasoned guy that we’re bringing back at basically an entry level salary,” Brewer said.
Brewer said the program had been used at eight of the 16 KSP posts in the state, including Post 13 in Hazard which had five contracted Trooper R officers on staff.
“Probably the most severe and adverse impact will be here in Hazard,” he explained.
Brewer said the troopers will have to depend now more than ever on the Data Driven Enforcement Program (DDEP) which helps police determine which areas in a community are more high crime and high traffic in order to know where troopers should patrol.
“We’ll feel a pinch,” he said. “We’re doing some reorganizing, some scheduling down here in this area to cover, but we will get new talent out of the academy in November and that’ll give us some much needed relief.”
Sixty-two cadets will be graduating in November, though Brewer noted there have already been 58 troopers retire this year, so the graduate numbers may be misleading
Brewer said the shortfall that led to these cuts was an unforeseen consequence of many things completely out of the agency’s control.
“Rising retirement contributions that our agency is expected to make to the retirement system, that has doubled in the last five years, it’s gone from $21 million to $42 million dollars, a lot of money, and that’s all on us,” Brewer said.
A cut in federal funding is also to blame, Brewer said, adding that five years ago federal assistance for the KSP was about $31 million. This year, the agency expects to get $14.8 million.
“Last year … we had an extremely successful fuel reduction program. They actually reduced our fuel consumption by 11 percent. That’s the good news,” he said. “The bad news is at the end of the year when we tallied up the bills, our fuel bills were $900,000 more than the previous year because of rising costs.”
Brewer added this would not be so painful to the budget as 90 percent of it was not made up of fuel, cars, and personnel.
The possibility of future cuts caused by budget shortfalls is something the agency can’t predict right now, but is still bracing itself for. Brewer said he hopes to be able to bring the Trooper R program back in the future, but said now all troopers can do is manage with the limited personnel available in order to serve their community to the best of their ability, adding that the only change citizens should notice in KSP presence is in local community programs.
“At least that’s our hope, in the way that we’re trying to schedule them for the next several weeks,” he said. “As much as we like being in communities, as much as we like teaching DARE and giving youth programs, all those things that we do are extremely important to our mission, but nothing is more important than when that phone rings and somebody needs our assistance, especially when it’s an emergency.”