Martin County Sheriff John Kirk took the stage without invitation at a fiscal court meeting on Feb. 4, saying his office was still owed a January payment of $75,000, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported. He also said new obligations given to his office will add $99,000 to his annual expenditures.
The sheriff said he has laid off the bookkeeper and limited office hours to 20 hours a week.
Kirk wrote on his personal Facebook page that the sheriff’s office is broke. He said his wife has helped out at the sheriff’s office some nights after working her full-time job. He also advised some residents to lock up their homes and get a dog.
“Folks, lock your doors, load your guns and get you a barking, biting dog,” he wrote. “If the sheriff’s office can’t protect you, who will?”
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 funding problem is a sharp decline in coal severance taxes hitting eastern Kentucky. Local government money from an economic assistance fund to coal-producing counties has dropped by 80 percent since fiscal year 2012 from $34 million to $6.7 million, The Lexington Herald-Leader reported. The fund returns a portion of state-collected mineral severance taxes to local governments.
The sheriff has asked residents to go to court meetings in order to be aware of what is happening. County officials said they hoped they could pay the $75,000 but did not immediately say when they could deliver the payment, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported.
Without the sheriff’s office, the residents will have to rely on the Kentucky State Police, which at times only has one officer patrolling multiple counties.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.