Commonwealth Attorneys turn to furloughs to help budget

By Dan Wells - bio | email

NEWPORT, KY (FOX19) - Some Kentucky Commonwealth Attorneys are furloughing employees to help out with the state's budget shortfall.

A furlough is a temporary layoff, and it's happening all over the Bluegrass State, and causing quite a mess for local jails and the court system.

The office of the Campbell County Commonwealth Attorney is closed for the rest of the week.

"The choices that we were given really were tough choices," said Campbell County Commonwealth Attorney Michelle Snodgrass. "You either cut people, cut people's salaries or you take a week off without pay."

Snodgrass says the $456 million state budget shortfall forced this tough decision for her and others.

"The governor has ordered that we cut four percent of our annual budget in the remaining five months of the year," she said.

In Kenton County, Commonwealth Attorney Rob Sanders says he'll furlough his employees the first week of March.

"We will still have all of the same arraignments, all the same guilty peas, all the same sentencing," said Sanders. "Its just going to be a one man show with me running from courtroom to courtroom."

Sure, the move is a cost saving measure for the state, but that may not be the case for county jails and local taxpayers.

"If you look at a week of having no sentencing the county, essentially the taxpayers are going to have to pay for those defendants to sit there throughout the week, so it really is a cost," said Snodgrass.

The move could back up the court system and could be problematic for local jails. The good news though is public safety shouldn't be effected."

"For the day to day operations of the police department the closing of the Commonwealth Attorney has minimal effect on our operations and our ability to protect and serve the community," said Campbell County police chief Keith Hill.

"I'm handling court dockets and I'm fortunate to have another attorney on a grant who is not subject to the budget cuts and between he and I anything that could allow a defendant to be released is still being covered," said Snodgrass.