Buford says lawmakers could order audit of Lexington as he clashes with city over pension bill

03/01/2012 07:36 AM

A disagreement over a proposal to require Lexington to pay the full health care premiums for retired police and firefighters might prompt lawmakers to order an audit of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, said state Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville.

Buford has proposed Senate Bill 130 that mandates Lexington pay the full health care costs for retired firefighters and police — a benefit Buford says is available to other retired workers of the city.

But it comes at a time when Lexington is examining how to reduce the costs of its pension system. It faces an unfunded liability of $221 million. Lexington’s total annual budget is about $270 million.

An added cost like this would increase that long-term debt, said Geoff Reed, senior advisor to Mayor Jim Gray. The legislative research commission estimates the price-tag of the bill to be about $2 million. Buford has said the city argues it could be as much as $4 million a year, while the firefighter and police unions say it’s more like $1.2 million.

As a result, Buford told Pure Politics that he wants to add a provision to the state budget to require the state auditor to review Lexington’s books. Here’s a brief interview with Buford about that as well as his bill:

The Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government since its creation has been exempt from state audits even though the auditor’s office regularly reviews other county governments.

Reed said the city would welcome the auditor’s office review but considered Buford’s move to order the audit as a threat.

State Auditor Adam Edelen said he didn’t want his office used as a political tool. But at the same time, he said he thought the office should have power to regularly audit Lexington.


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