By Ronnie Ellis / CNHI News Service
Budget cuts are forcing the elimination of 20 uniformed positions in the Kentucky State Police held by contractual employees known as Trooper Rs.
KSP Commissioner Rodney Brewer informed the officers and commanders Friday around noon, calling it “a very painful day.” The cuts will directly impact eight of the 16 KSP Posts.
In addition to the uniformed officers, other contractual temporary employees, mostly in records departments including some who work on applications for concealed carry weapon licenses, will see their hours reduced or terminated.
Brewer said the agency hopes to save at least $200,000 in those records departments.
He said KSP is facing a budget shortfall in Fiscal Year 2014 of about $5.8 million because of a combination of rising costs.
The required contribution to the employee retirement plan has doubled over the past five years while federal funding to the agency has dropped from about $31 million a year to $14.8 million.
KSP has reduced its fuel consumption by 11.5 percent and reduced its mileage by 3.5 million miles during the state budget crunch, Brewer said, but escalating fuel costs nonetheless cost KSP $900,000 more last year than the year before.
Brewer said the state budget office “has worked with us every way they can, and I don’t envy them their jobs, but as you know 90 percent of our budget is personnel and fuel. There were only so many options.”
But for Brewer, the option of terminating the contracts with the Trooper Rs, veteran state police officers who came back on one-year contracts, is especially painful. The program was his idea and it saves the agency training costs of new officers while providing veteran officers for duty.
The impact of the cutbacks will be temporary for the 904-officer uniformed force, Brewer said, because a 62-cadet class of new officers is scheduled to graduate in November. The Trooper R contracts include a 30-day notification clause but the officers will also be given compensatory time they’ve earned during those 30 days.
The cutbacks affect eight of the 16 KSP Posts: Post 3, Bowling Green will lose one officer; Post 4, Elizabethtown, two; Post 9, Pikeville, one; Post 10, Harlan, two; Post 11 London, four; Post 12, Frankfort, three; Post 13, Hazard, five; and Post 14, Ashland, two.
Brewer said those spots will be filled by new officers after November.
The cutback in hours in records divisions might affect the agency in another way. After the publicity of the Newtown, Conn. shootings last winter, applications for concealed carry weapons soared, creating a backlog.
Brewer said most of that has been worked down to manageable levels, but that department will also see a reduction in hours.
He said he told the officers Friday he hopes the Trooper R program can be revived at a future date because it is effective and saves money.
The state budget has been cut $1.6 billion over the past five years. During each round of budget cuts, Gov. Steve Beshear said he wanted to minimize cuts to public safety and education, forcing even larger budget reductions to other agencies.
His spokeswoman, Kerri Richardson, said Friday public safety “has always been one of the governor’s top priorities, and therefore he has consistently fought to protect the Kentucky State Police budget as much as possible.”
She said during the most recent round of budget cuts most agencies’ budgets were cut 8 percent while KSP was reduced by only 2 percent.
“Because of the recession, there are no easy options left to reduce the expenditures,” Richardson said. “The steps being taken to balance the budget are a result of discussions and recommendations from the Kentucky State Police and the Justice Cabinet.”
Richardson said the administration will continue to work closely with KSP to ensure public safety.
Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.