When I took Office in 2015 I knew we would have some big hurdles to jump. Every County in Kentucky seemed to be facing funding shortages in the same areas. Those areas are specifically jails, roads and workforce development. It’s been 4 years since we first started looking at these issues and even though improvements have been made in each category we still have a long way to go before we can say that there is not a funding problem for these specific areas. Take County jails for example. We receive a per diem cost for State inmates we house of $31.40 per day. That number has not went up in several years even thought the cost of living and operations have. Every County faces overcrowding and to be quite frank we have to stay overfull to make financial end meet in our jail. It’s a financial glitch that nobody in the State has figured out how to fix. There is only 1 County jail in the State of Kentucky that makes money and they have a jail that’s paid for and house Federal inmates. Every other County has the same issue we do with the Fiscal Court stepping in to help financially. Our Jailer has made great strides to help offset the cost of operations and I have noticed that the amount of money we are having to put in from the general fund to operate has went down significantly. The only way to completely solve the funding problem is for the State to give us a raise on the daily per diem rate. I believe that will be a topic of discussion in the upcoming 2020 session of the General Assembly and I plan to be there to advocate for County Jails when the session starts.
Roads has been another thing on my list of things to improve. If you think that your Magistrate just doesn’t want to blacktop your road than you maybe mistaken. The Fiscal Court receives a little over 1 million dollars per Fiscal Year in County Road aide money to operate the County Road plan. That money has to provide road maintenance such as gravel for gravel roads, drainage tiles, right of way mowing, equipment maintenance. road department employee wages, fuel and every other cost for running the department. All this besides the cost of blacktop. We budget for about $330,000 in blacktop yearly. We do our best to split that money as evenly as possible. That will provide about 2 miles per district. We also receive around $225,000 yearly of State Transportation Flex Funds. This money can not be used on gravel roads and the State has to approve the roads we request to be resurfaced with this money. This money will provide about 3 miles of additional blacktop funding. So that’s about 9 miles of roads per year. We maintain around 700 County Road miles in Jackson County. That’s why we struggle to meet the pavement needs on many of our roads. I learnt about the Discretionary Funds program that the Governor Office offers in 2015. That money has to be requested specifically by the County Judge and approved by the Governor with the recommendation of the State Transportation Highway Engineer. We were able to do about 7 extra miles of blacktop this year with those funds. I know I have went over budget this year on blacktop as I have authorized more that what we intended to do but we have so many roads that are falling apart I felt we needed to. I will deal with the funding for these roads as I go along throughout the year. This I just a little rundown of what we experience on a daily basis with County Roads. Your specific Magistrate and the Fiscal Court as a whole doesn’t have much money to work with as far as roads go. This is another issue I plan to advocate about in the upcoming 2020 Legislative Session.
Lastly lets talk about workforce development. This has been a passion of mine since starting in 2015. When you look at he unemployment numbers statewide, Jackson County ranks as one of the highest in the State. I don’t believe that’s a fair assumption though. Many of our citizens have to travel out of County to work and my understanding of the way that percentage number is calculated that’s not figured into it. That doesn’t matter though because we still want employment opportunities to grow in Jackson County and they are. Teleworks has created 700 jobs since 2015, Senture has created 146 and several other employers such as DTS Industries, Phillips Diversified and Phoenix Products have continued to operate and expand. Business retention is just as important as business creation in workforce development. Its all a puzzle that we have to work together to put together. The pieces are there, someone just has to make the first move. I don’t mind to make the first move. Have a blessed week.
Jackson County Judge Executive
PO Box 175 Mckee KY 40447