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Thu October 1, 2009
State property auction makes a dent in Kentucky's deficit
By Tony McVeigh
Frankfort, KY – A couple of auctions of surplus state property are helping make a dent in Kentucky's ongoing deficit problem. Combined, the auctions raised more than $1.5 million for the commonwealth. Kentucky Public Radio's Tony McVeigh dropped by Tuesday's auction.
Since taking office in December 2007, Gov. Steve Beshear has been forced to trim $600 million from state spending to keep the budget balanced. Another $80 million in cuts is likely this fiscal year. The tight monetary situation has the administration scratching around, looking for ways to raise new revenue. One way, says Finance Secretary Jonathan Miller, is to auction off surplus state property.
"We're getting to the point where we've cut out all the waste and now the next set of cuts are going to be really painful," said Miller. "And we're going to hopefully alleviate some of that with these types of auctions that we're holding."
The latest auction featured surplus Transportation Cabinet equipment, like dump trucks, tractors, backhoes, road graders, mowers and bush hogs. More than 700-people signed up to bid, including Ray Potter of West Liberty. He's impressed with the quality of the merchandise.
"Them trucks all look good to me," said Potter.
"Pretty good stuff? asked McVeigh. "It's not just junk, then?
"Right," said Potter. "They're good stuff."
"Has it been worked pretty hard, do you think?" asked McVeigh.
"No, not that bad, don't look like," said Potter. "'Cause you can tell by looking at the springs and stuff on them trucks. Cause if springs wore, they been loaded heavy and stuff, you know. And them trucks, a lot of em, the springs ain't wore none on em."
"So, it's a pretty good deal for people down here?" asked McVeigh.
"Real good deal," replied Potter.
Sure is, says state Surplus Properties Director Eric Bray, who was pleased with how the auction was going.
"Yes, we're having a real good sale," said Bray. "All this equipment and trucks and all of that nature has been so much well-maintained by the state on a regular basis. So, you're getting very good equipment."
Madison County farmer John Sword was eyeing a big yellow farm tractor. How did he find out about the auction?
"Newspaper," replied Sword.
"Do you think it's a good idea for the governor to have an auction?" asked McVeigh.
"Well, it's a way to get rid of property, if you want to sell it," replied Sword.
"Make a little money for the state, maybe?" asked McVeigh.
"Yeah, looks like they'll make a few dollars today."
They sure did. By the end of the day, over 500 pieces of equipment rolled off the lot, raising more than $1.1 million for the state's depleted coffers. Eric Bray says a similar auction last week, which featured mostly cars, vans and SUV's, brought in more than $430,000.
"That was mainly the fleet that state employees use as cars to transport around to get to their destination when they're assigned to go do inspections or things of that nature," replied Bray. "The vehicles there were actually older. They had held onto the vehicles a little bit longer, so therefore, the price of the vehicles were right in line with what we expected there and had a very good outcome there as well."
And this isn't the end of the auctions. More are planned in coming weeks, including the sale of surplus property at state parks. Finance Secretary Miller says the auctions won't solve the state's fiscal crisis, but every little bit helps.
"That will be tens of millions of dollars that we won't need to cut," said Miller. "That could be tens of millions of dollars in people we don't have to lay off, or in school budgets that we don't have to cut. And so, every dollar really matters."
The auctions are also helping cities and counties across the commonwealth. Local governments have spent around $173,000 on surplus vehicles and heavy equipment. A backhoe drew the top bid at the latest auction. It went for $38,000. The cars, vans and SUV's at the previous auction were going for as much as $6,200 each. State officials say part of the net proceeds from the auctions will be used to purchase new equipment and more fuel-efficient vehicles.