Saturday, March 1, 2003

Cities lobby to keep police funds

Assembly considers cutting payments for court overtime

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Dozens of Northern Kentucky leaders are pressing state legislators to let cities keep at least part of the state funds they receive for police overtime and other expenses.

The House budget calls for taking $5.4 million from 298 cities and 16 counties.

That money, or "base court revenues," would be diverted to the state corrections system to help counties that have expanded or built new jails, but are struggling to pay debts because of a lack of state prisoners.

Gov. Paul Patton, in an attempt to cut costs in past months, has released more than 900 Class D felons from county jails that have come to count on revenue from housing state prison overflow.

The Senate budget calls for restoring half the funds the House would eliminate.

It also would give cities authority to charge $10 to $20 more per traffic citation to help cover overtime costs and other expenses of local police who write traffic tickets and testify in state courts.

A joint House/Senate committee will attempt to resolve differences, starting Monday.

The disputed "base court revenues," are annual payments that many local governments have received since Kentucky's court system was reorganized in 1976.

The purpose was to replace money that many cities and some counties lost in court costs and traffic ticket revenues when Kentucky replaced local police courts with a state-run court system.

"Don't stop now!" Fort Mitchell Administrator Bill Goetz warned other Northern Kentucky municipal leaders in a recent e-mail. "Keep reminding your legislators about your position on the base court revenues issue."

Fort Mitchell receives $22,704 a year in base court revenues. In the past year, the city spent $11,226 in court-related overtime for police officers, Police Chief Steve Hensley said. However, he said, that doesn't include the hours that on-duty officers spend in court or in preparing for a traffic case before it goes to trial.

"Some smaller cities may only have one person on duty at a time,'' Hensley said. "You end up taking your (staff) off the road because these officers are tied up in court."

Covington stands to lose $86,622 a year in base court revenues, the most of the 32 Northern Kentucky communities who receive the funds.

"In Covington, base court revenues go into the general fund," Lt. Col. Mike Kraft said. "You lose about $87,000 a year and you're going to lose some services somewhere.''


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