• John McGary, Woodford Sun Staff

Court debates training pay

Woodford Fiscal Court spent nearly half of a 50-minute meeting Tuesday discussing whether magistrates should continue to receive incentive pay for training that all agreed was valuable. Magistrate Mary Ann Gill (Dist. 7) brought up the subject, saying she was uncertain of the present policy. Budget shortfalls in late 2015 led to the court banning the training pay for magistrates as well as overtime pay, compensatory time and education reimbursements for county employees. At the end of the year, the court temporarily lifted the ban to allow magistrates to be paid for 40 hours of training. A February 2016 motion to permanently lift the ban failed, and Gill and Judge-Executive John Coyle agreed there was some confusion over the present status of the program. Fiscal court members are reimbursed for tuition, travel, meals and, in some cases, lodging. State law allows magistrates who attend training through the state Department of Local Government to be paid $75 or $100 per hour up to 40 hours – but the money comes from county coffers. Gill said considering county employees received .7 and .8 percent pay hikes the last two years, it seemed unfair that the county set aside $28,772 this fiscal year for magistrate training. “I don’t think the county should be paying, in addition to that training incentive, they shouldn’t be paying for the cost of the training, and the travel, and lodging. It doesn’t seem fair to me,” Gill said. Gill said until county employees get a 3 percent raise, members of the court should use the incentive pay to pay all training expenses. Magistrate Ken Reed (Dist. 4) disagreed, saying he didn’t believe the training expenses would amount to much more money for county employees and that magistrates had not given themselves a raise for the past six years. He said it wasn’t fair to compare magistrate training and employees’ salaries. Gill said it wasn’t her intention to link the issues, but rather to continue to cut costs. Reed said he wondered how far the county money for the new Huntertown Road sidewalk, a project Gill spearheaded, would go if spread among county employees. Magistrate Jackie Brown (Dist. 8) said one such training session he’d attended had given him information that helped the county avoid running out of salt one winter. After more than 20 minutes of sometimes heated debate, a motion by Gill to have magistrates pay training expenses until county employees receive a 3 percent raise failed 3 to 5, with Gill, Brown and C.L. Watts (Dist. 2) voting yes. A later motion by Magistrate Gary Finnell (Dist. 3) to lift the training ban also failed, 4 to 5,with Finnell, Reed, Magistrate Linda Popp (Dist. 1) and Magistrate Gerald Dotson (Dist. 5) voting yes. The rest of the court, and Coyle, voted no. Gleneagles Estates The court voted unanimously to release the $328,603 bond to the developer of Gleneagles Estates after County Road Engineer Buan Smith assured them that all needed repairs had been made. Later, the court voted unanimously to hear the first reading of an ordinance adopting parts of Gleneagles Way, Lucas Lane and Shepherds Trace – a total of a little more than 1.2 miles – into the county road system. Appointments The court unanimously approved Coyle’s nominations of retired State Appeals Court Judge Tony Wilhoit and Barry Settles to the county Board of Ethics. Words of wisdom As is his custom this year, Coyle ended the meeting with a quote from a famous person that in this case he thought particularly appropriate, considering the confusion over the training pay. “If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself,” Coyle said, quoting Albert Einstein.

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