As the Barren County Fiscal Court continues to discuss whether to stay with seven districts or change to a five-magistrate plan laid out by the court-appointed Reapportionment Committee, other counties serve as examples of both sides.
Thirteen counties in Kentucky, including Barren, have seven or more magistrates, but there are also some with similar populations that operate with fewer.
“It’s got its points, but there really isn’t an extra benefit to having more magistrates,” said Robert D. Marshall, judge-executive in Floyd County.
In 2010, Floyd County has a population of 39,451, which is 2,700 less than Barren County’s census count for the same year. They currently have four magistrates, but Marshall would like to see them have less.
“I’d like to have three, it would be one less to deal with and we could divide it back up like it used to be,” Marshall said. “That’s how we used to have it and it worked.”
The cost of a magistrate in Floyd County is higher than in Barren County — magistrates their make $50,000 per year, plus the use of a vehicle and a life insurance plan — but the argument for saving money from reducing the number of magistrates is one Marshall and Barren Judge-Executive Davie Greer agree upon. Magistrates in Barren County make $23,971 per year.
Efforts to contact magistrates in Floyd County were unsuccessful.
In the even smaller county of Adair, with 18,656 in 2010, the seven magistrates are what the county is used to, according to one magistrate.
“Most of the time, the more heads the better it is for the county, but it’s whatever they get used to,” said Joe Rogers, District 6 magistrate. “It doesn’t have to take seven though, that’s just how we are.”
Rogers said going down to less magistrates would mean more work but it wouldn’t be out of the question.
“It just means they’d pick up more work and they’d have to cover more, but it’s possible,” Rogers said.
Magistrates in his county make about $500 a month, plus $300 in incentive pay, according to the Judge-Executive Ann Melton’s office.
As for bigger counties, Henderson County, with a population of 46,250 as of the 2010 census, has five magistrates and have no plans to grow or get smaller.
“In my opinion, seven’s too many,” Henderson Judge-Executive Hugh McCormick said. “You have to look at the cost of the magistrate; Henderson’s had five for years and it’s worked out well.”
Greer thinks the five-district plan would be a good one, despite the objections of some magistrates.
“I think five would be fine, it would definitely save us some money,” Greer said. “Five magistrates can handle this county and everybody would have a little part of the county.”
The court has 60 days from their regular meeting on June 21 to decide on a plan and the public will have 20 days after the vote to object to the plan.