VERSAILLES — The spending cuts Woodford County government made this fall are evident in several ways.
There was slight chill Tuesday in Judge-Executive John "Bear" Coyle's second-floor courthouse office. That's because the heat has not been turned on in the courthouse — to save money on utilities, Coyle said.
Over at the Woodford County Detention Center, employees bring in used Kroger bags to use as wastepaper-basket liners so as not to spend money on plastic trash bags.
"I know it sounds silly," said Jailer Michele Rankin. "But we do anything we can to offset any expenses we can."
Sheriff Wayne "Tiny" Wright said he and county department heads have been told to keep expenses such as overtime and large purchases to a minimum.
Bigger expenses and several bills coming due have contributed to the cash-flow problem, which should be remedied when property taxes begin filling county coffers next month, Coyle said.
Rumors of county layoffs were floating around Tuesday, but Coyle said, "I don't think there will be any layoffs for any department. ...I don't anticipate any layoffs at all."
Fiscal court's finance committee met Tuesday to discuss revenues and expenditures, as well as possible measures to reduce spending.
Long-term measures included a discussion about employee health benefits, Coyle said. Short-term measures included such things as "making sure the lights are turned off and no water is running."
The county has about 150 full-time and part-time employees, and has a $16.5 million budget for 2015-16. The county's fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30, 2016.
Budget constraints are not typically associated with Woodford County, which residents tout as a place of lush horse farms, scenic drives lined with osage orange trees, and quaint, well-kept downtowns in Versailles and Midway.
Woodford typically has the lowest unemployment rate of any county in Kentucky (it was 3.3 percent in August), and in 2010 ranked third among Kentucky counties in per-capita income ($28,501 to No. 1 Oldham County's $32,602).
So what happened to cause the current austerity in county government?
Coyle said the county spent "a little bit more" on paving and striping roads this year, but fiscal court has not yet received about $400,000 in a municipal road aid reimbursement from the state. Typically the reimbursement would have come in by now.
Meanwhile, several big bills came due, such as a $355,000 county payment to Versailles police as part of an annual contract for countywide police protection.
It's not unusual for a county to have a cash-flow problem in the fall before property taxes can replenish coffers, said former Jessamine County Judge-Executive Neal Cassidy.
"That's always a touchy time," Cassidy said. "You get closer to the end of the pot of money, I'd guess you say. It doesn't happen every year but sometimes it just does."
Woodford County also had a $190,000 payment come due on the jail; the county will make the final payment on the jail next year, Coyle said. The $1.5 million jail opened in the late 1980s.
Speaking of the jail, a fiscal court committee is weighing options for the detention center's future, Coyle and Rankin said. The options include closing the jail or renovating it and making it a regional jail, they said.
Closing the jail would pose several challenges, not the least of which would be finding another county jail to house inmates, Rankin said.
In the meantime, Coyle said the county finances should see an improvement when the sheriff's office makes its first allotment of collected property taxes to the county.
Wright said that November payment is anticipated to be a little more than $1 million.
"We'll get things straightened out, I feel confident," Coyle said.