The Grayson City Council -- like pretty much every government entity in Kentucky -- is facing some fiscal challenges.
The council recently held a special session to address department needs versus the budget. The city said it was looking at deeper cuts to the street department and to park and cemetery maintenance. The city's fire department is also struggling to cope with how to make a requested cut of $70,000 to their initial budget. The police department had also been told they would need to cut $70,000 from their proposed budget, which Chief Kevin McDavid planned to do by not filling two open positions in his department. But Mayor George Steele told McDavid that he believed the department could still fill those positions, one full time and one part time, if they worked to rein in overtime costs.
There is a money crunch when it comes to the Grayson budget. Steele said he is not interested in cutting money to the art gallery in the community. The city also is looking at their agreement with Pathways that allowed those involved with the Genesis Recovery program to use the senior citizens center rent free. Steele said that Pathways may have to start paying a $50 a day fee for use of the facilities, to help cover maintenance there. Others, however, said that the folks from Genesis may simply choose to stop using the senior center rather than paying the rent.
The street department took the biggest cuts.
Mayor Steele also said the fire department could help stem their costs by working to make sure they were properly reimbursed for the services they provide outside of the city. Some crack research (i.e. Google search) shows this is an issue communities struggle with across the nation, especially in rural communities.
"Common sense will say we can't continue to provide (fire) service outside the city without reimbursement," Steele told fire chief Greg Felty.
It is important to state up front Grayson has top notch public service agencies and first responders. It appears to us there are tough decisions ahead. We agree with the mayor -- that if the city fire department is providing these much valued fire services outside the city the fire department should be reimbursed. The problem is, of course, who is going to do the reimbursing? Who has the money to do that? This is a tricky issue in that it requires balancing the need for public safety versus the need to pay for that public safety. This whole paying for public safety thing -- or any city services, for that matter -- is one often taken for granted when it comes to revenues versus actual costs.
Getting down to brass tacks, though, the mayor is right. Public safety isn't free. If the city is responding to calls outside its jurisdiction those jurisdictions or those receiving services eventually need to pay for it in one form or another. This is not a popular idea but it is, in fact, the truth. We assume (always dangerous) that if a public agency responds to a call outside its jurisdiction either that jurisdiction (the county) or the person receiving services is going to have to pay for it. We suspect the middle ground is the place to be here -- you certainly don't want to see emergency calls ignored, so perhaps the city can team up with the county and figure out a solution. We are guessing that solution is going to be some kind of county-wide tax to properly fund such responses. The only other alternative that we know of is sending bills to people who call for an ambulance or to report a fire outside of the city limits. That is no easy task and the city doesn't want to be in the collections business.
However, we will reiterate the very real and accurate position from the city -- the bills have to be paid and the city can't run at a deficit on these fronts. We suggest the city get together with county leaders and put something on the ballot that provides a remedy. We are of the low tax mindset. However, we are unaware of any solution at the present time.