INEZ, KY — A Kentucky sheriff has told the local fiscal court he is suspending all law enforcement activities because of lack of funding.
The Lexington Herald-Leader reports Martin County Sheriff John Kirk took the stage without invitation at a fiscal court meeting Monday. Kirk said his office is still owed a $75,000 payment due in January. He also complained that new obligations placed on his office will add $99,000 to his annual expenditures.
Kirk said he has laid off the bookkeeper and limited office hours to 20 hours a week.
On his personal Facebook page, he posted that residents should, “lock your doors, load your guns and get a biting, barking dog.”
He also explained further his decision to suspend policing activities, writing, “The law requires the Sheriff to collect taxes, Bailiff court and serve papers. We have always provided police protection but without the funding we can no longer do this.”
A large part of the problem is a sharp decline in coal severance taxes hitting Eastern Kentucky. Local government economic assistance fund money to coal-producing counties has dropped by 80 percent since fiscal year 2012. The fund returns a portion of state-collected mineral severance taxes to local governments.
In Knott County, the fiscal court approved a partial shutdown of county government last month. That allows the county’s road department to respond only to emergencies. The fiscal court also canceled health insurance for all county employees and elected officials. And Judge-Executive Jeff Dobson said they will also make cuts to a program that delivers food to senior citizens.
In Pike County, officials have laid off workers and proposed a major rate increase for garbage pickup.
Without the sheriff’s office responding to calls in Martin County, residents will have to rely on Kentucky State Police, which sometimes has just one officer patrolling multiple counties.
KSP spokesman William Petry said it puts a strain on troopers if they can’t rely on help from local law enforcement. But he added, “We’re going to respond as we always have.”