Fiscal Court Lowers Property Tax Rates in Warren County, but Budget Woes May Lead to Layoffs

By Melissa Warren | 

On Wednesday, the Warren County Fiscal Court approved a property tax decrease, partially due to the still-weakened economy, but There's a catch. It still leaves the county with an $800,000 budget deficit... which may have to be accounted for by cutting county jobs.

"The very last thing we want to do is put anyone out of a job, and we're going to try to look for opportunities to change people to part-time, so it will lower our pension cost," said Warren County Judge-Executive Mike Buchanon.

Judge Buchanon says that state pension cost is five times more expensive today than it was ten years ago.

The cost of the pension plans is putting a huge burden on the state budget.

"We are short in the neighborhood of somewhere around $34 billion, so that means eventually, we're going to run out of money," said Public Pension Task Force Member State Sen. Mike Wilson.

One legislator spoke with a WKU economist about the issue.

"He told me that on the current track of our pension systems they are due to implode within 10 years," said State Rep. Jim DeCesare.

Legislation like 2011's Senate Bill 2 proposed a new two-part system where new hires would have a 401-k style pension plan. When that failed to pass through the house, some legislators this spring promoted a hybrid style system that combined current and 401k style benefits.

"The projections of the dollars that must go to keep sustaining that system are such that almost all other governmental functions are going to be absorbed by those costs if we don't address them," said State Sen. David Givens.

Sen. Givens says he is eager to hear the recommendations of the Public Pensions Task Force that's set to meet next month.

Sen. Mike Wilson says the Pew Research Center will be analyzing Kentucky's current pension crisis, and making recommendations to the Public Pension Task Force in October.

The Fiscal Court also chose to keep real estate taxes at their current rate.

Judge Buchanon said they do not know the extent, or which jobs may suffer from this deficit.

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