Rita Dukes Smith: What are your top priorities if you are elected for the position of magistrate?
Patricia Hawkins: My top priorities include dedicating myself to listening to constituents’ concerns and views regarding county government; sharing information and insight regarding county issues with citizens; and to assume a proactive role in supporting economic development education, and workforce development initiatives. Jobs drive an economy. Hopkins County must make jobs a priority.
RDS: What are the primary issues facing your district; and, what can you do as a magistrate to deal with them?
PH: The primary issues facing District 7 are the same issues facing Hopkins County as a whole. Decreased revenue from state and federal sources have placed an extra burden upon county government. In addition coal severance funds continue to decline. Incoming Fiscal Court members will be faced with maintaining if not expanding services for citizens despite a shrinking revenue base. This will be a challenge for county leaders.
RDS: Do you believe that county dollars and resources are being spent and used wisely?
PH: It appears there’s always room for improvement. No government is perfect. Most certainly there’s waste. On the flip side there are many great departments and programs providing vital services for Hopkins County citizens each day. It’s the responsibility of each magistrate to work to ensure public funds are used wisely. Magistrates are given the opportunity at each fiscal court meeting to review expenditures and ask questions, as well as take part in yearly county budget meeting.
RDS: What are the primary issues facing the county as a whole; and, what can you do as magistrate to deal with them?
PH: Once again the answer is dwindling revenue. While county property tax revenues are stable at this time state capital project funding has virtually disappeared. The Governor has indicated that he would like to see tax reform at the state level but there has to be a buy-in from legislative members in both parties. Tax reform at the state level will impact counties. Our county will require strong voices and action from local leaders to ensure Hopkins County benefits from any tax reform. Counties are already burdened by too many unfunded mandates. I have experience in bringing dollars back to Hopkins County and will be a voice and advocate for our needs. The incoming Fiscal Court will have to wrestle with priorities.
Coal severance depletion is so substantial we’re close to breaking even. As magistrate I will work to support coal and coal related industry. Having served on Kentucky Coal County Coalition, I have an understanding of what coal means to our community and what it provides.
RDS: What are your qualities or attributes that would benefit Hopkins County?
PH: I’m a former magistrate, deputy judge-executive, and county judge-executive. My experience and knowledge of county government are assets. Little if any learning curve and ready to hit the ground running. I’m a masters level county official as certified by Kentucky Association of Counties, graduate of Murray State University, and have completed course work from Kentucky Institute of Economic Development. Throughout my life I’ve been active member of community civic organizations and volunteer. I’m a team player and a professional who enjoys working for the people and solving problems.
RDS: If elected, on what does the county need to spend more money?
PH: It’s my thought incoming magistrates will need to assess needs versus wants. It only makes sense to first review financial statements leading up to the end of fiscal year. The FY 2014-15 budget work will begin shortly into the new administration. At that time it will be easier to assess what county’s financial outlook will be.
RDS: If elected, where would you like to make spending cuts?
PH: Incoming magistrates will step into their roles mid-budget. I anticipate very little if any changes will take place until a new court conducts budget workshops for the new fiscal year.
Kentucky Revised Statues require county governments to fund or maintain various services. It is the county judge executive’s responsibility to present a budget to fiscal court. Any spending cuts come about once all revenue projections and estimated receipts are reviewed and a majority of magistrates deem specific cuts necessary as KRS allows Fiscal Court to make changes to the budget prior to submission to Department of Local Government for its approval. A with the previous question there are many variables to consider in answering. So many factors come into play. The severe winter weather we’ve experienced has significant impact upon the budget for road department; including fuel, over-time pay, equipment cost, salt, etc. With 437 miles of county roads to maintain and oversee the ice and snow events have serious draw on funds.
RDS: How many hours per week will you dedicate to being a magistrate? What will you be doing during that time?
PH: As in the past I will be a full-time magistrate. I’ve always chosen to go above and beyond what’s expected of the job. If performed fully the job of magistrate doesn’t begin and end with the meeting of fiscal court. There are committee meetings, state meetings, conferences, training, constituent contracts, road assessment, marriage ceremonies, correspondence/phone call and other functions within the city and county to attend on a monthly basis.
RDS: Under what circumstances would you vote to increase tax rates?
PH: Only at a time when there are no other alternatives and in order to provide services and duties as mandated to county government by state law.
RDS: Why should voters vote for you instead of your opponent(s)?
PH: Three reasons: common sense, experience, and knowledge. I’m the only candidate with experience working in county government. I have knowledge of county operation and the laws governing it. I’m proven tested and qualified.
Rita Dukes Smith
SurfKY News Director
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