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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- Kentucky State Police Commissioner Rodney Brewer said it is the first time KSP has had to lay off troopers in its history. He said it was news that was hard to deliver, especially for him.
"It's a tough time," said Brewer.
After what Brewer described as a $7 million projected shortfall for Fiscal Year 2014, he was forced to lay off veteran cops in the Trooper Retirement, or "Trooper R" program.
"It was extremely difficult, it was my program," said Brewer.
"Many of these guys I know personally and professionally. I've grown up with them in the agency."
The program, which Brewer implemented in 2009, allows retirees with 20 or more years of experience to come back on a yearly contract for up to five years. Brewer said KSP saves money by not having to pay for things like healthcare costs and gains invaluable experience.
"They are a mentor here and they bring with that to the table a lot of experience that you don't get back overnight," Brewer said.
Troopers from eight of the 16 posts will be out of a job on Sept. 22, 2013. Brewer said the posts that would be affected spanned across the state.
Post: No. of Layoffs
3 Bowling Green 1
4 Elizabethtown 2
9 Pikeville 1
10 Harlan 2
11 London 4
12 Frankfort 3
13 Hazard 5
14 Ashland 2
The commissioner said rising personnel and fuel costs have created a problem that is not going away. He said the bottom line is funds continue to decrease over time.
"When 90 percent of your budget is fuel and people, it makes it very difficult to make any further cuts without affecting those," Brewer said.
He added that money is not the only issue. The commissioner said many have retired in recent years and the numbers are not replenishing at the rate that allows them to continue to provide the same amount of services. Nearly 60 troopers have retired this year, leaving KSP with 842 troopers. Brewer said they hoped to have more than 900 in November after graduation, but numbers have continued to decrease.
"Our numbers are already very low, so there's been this balancing act of keeping them while they're already low," Brewer said.
Brewer credited Gov. Steve Beshear for continuously allowing KSP to enroll cadets in the academy each year, something that is not always guaranteed.
Last year in 2012, Brewer said KSP graduated 37 and lost 42 to retirement. Brewer said 58 troopers have retired this year, a number that will be added to the 20 who are having their contracts canceled.
State budget officials say other agencies are dealing with the same problem. Jane Driskell, Kentucky State Budget Director said the Kentucky State Parks, Kentucky State Fair Board, the Department of Natural Resources and Public Advocacy have all had budget shortfall concerns. She said they were doing their best to work with all of the agencies. In the last budget, governor's officials say when other agencies were forced to cut more than 8 percent, KSP's was only reduced by 2 percent. Brewer said for now, they will just wait for 62 cadets to graduate in November.
"When you take a couple of troopers off of the schedule at post, as short as we are, it is very tough to cover that, but we will do that over the next several weeks," Brewer said.
He said the posts, which are mainly located in rural areas, can be very adversely affected by the decrease in manpower.
Brewer said he believes this is a bigger issue.
"The entire budget of the state is really at a crossroads and I think that we are to a point where revenues, for whatever reason, are not sufficient to meet the demands of the traditional services that the Commonwealth has offered," said Brewer.
"I think it sends a signal that something is going to change. You can't continue to provide the same level of service, at least from the Kentucky State Police, as we historically have done with less and less funding."
Brewer said he understood other agencies were dealing with similar concerns, but the main factors he believes caused them to overspend are in areas that cannot be compromised. He said rising gas prices have really hurt the departments, as well as increased costs for cruiser maintenance and repairs.
"Eventually there needs to be a reckoning time of where it's going to be, one or the other," Brewer said.
"Either revenues have to increase, or we have to decrease and not give the traditional level of services we have always given."
Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo (D) Kentucky released a statement last Friday.
"In light of yesterday's testimony during the Appropriations and Revenue Committee about the Kentucky State Police budget shortfall from the just-completed fiscal year, I want to say that we in the House will work with this agency to ensure that it has the resources it needs to do the job right."
Brewer says he is hoping to re-implement the program in the future, if the budget allows. He said he was concerned about the future of the program, if it is re-implemented.
He said it could be given a "black eye or the stigma" if potential troopers signed up "knowing that [they] could be laid off."
Funding for KSP comes through the Justice Cabinet, which is allocated money through the General Fund. Officials say money in the General Fund must be allocated and certain funds could not be used for certain projects or departments like a family checking account could be. Officials say that money cannot be transferred just anywhere and allocation depended on the source of the funds in many instances.
Kerri Richardson, a spokesperson from Governor Steve Beshear's office, sent in this statement.
"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 during this historic recession. In the most recent budget, while most agencies were cut more than 8 percent, the KSP budget was reduced by only 2 percent.
However, the state police budget still faces an estimated $7 million shortfall, and steps must be taken to balance their budget.
Because of the recession, there are no easy options left to reduce expenditures. The steps being taken to balance the budget are a result of discussions and recommendations from the Kentucky State Police and the Justice Cabinet.
According to the 2012-2014 Budget of the Commonwealth, personnel costs for the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet have continued to increase since 2010. Personnel costs for Actual FY 2010 were $492,017,260 and $507,362,670 for Actual FY 2011. The revised personnel cost for FY 2012 was $508,179,000. The enacted personnel cost for FY 2013 was $530,022,800. The enacted personnel cost for FY 2014 is $538,008,400. The Cabinet is comprised of six departments: Department of Justice Administration, Department for Public Advocacy, Department of Kentucky State Police, Department of Juvenile Justice, Department of Criminal Justice Training and Department of Corrections. Personnel costs in those figures include all of those departments, not merely the personnel cost for the Kentucky State Police. For a copy of the 2012-2014 Budget of the Commonwealth click here.