County approves '07 budget

Saturday, September 9, 2006

Final approval of the 2007 budget for Putnam County government came with a few concerns voiced over pay raises Friday morning.

But as approved, and pending any changes made by state budget officials, the Council has figured out how to fund county operations with only $533 to spare.

The new budget as reviewed and cut by the Council last week contained 3 percent raises for county employees, with the exception of the sheriff's department at 6 percent increases. The original budgets had requested 5 percent raises, but the Council last week reduced the amount in order to bring the budget in under the maximum levy of $3.99 million set by the state.

However on Friday, Teresa Parrish and Renee Marsteller of the county Probation Department asked Council members Mitch Proctor, Larry Parker, Darrel Thomas, Richard Lyon and Keith Berry to reconsider the amount of raises. While the sheriff's department may make the initial arrest, Parrish said, it is staff in the court system that must then deal with the person arrested, sometimes for several months or years. And the court system staff also face danger dealing with some of those arrested.

Parrish also noted that many times, the court and probation staff must seek ongoing education for their jobs, as well as attend workshops and have college degrees.

But Council members countered that in recent years when other county employees have not received raises, probation officers have received state-mandated raises.

"Did you not get mandated raises at a time when other county employees didn't," Council member Thomas asked.

"We may have," Parrish replied.

Sheriff Mark Frisbie later explained that the reason for the higher raises was due to the inequity in pay among his deputies and the jail staff. The lowest paid full-time jailer now receives more pay than five of the merit deputies, the sheriff said. And two of the deputies should be receiving more money due to their canine duties.

The Council agreed to allow Frisbie to adjust the salaries of his staff using the 6 percent raise.

However, Proctor noted while the budget has county approval, it will not be finalized until the state reviews and approves it later this year.

Auditor Stephanie Campbell told the Council her staff is happy with the 3 percent raise, considering most county employees did not receive raises last year due to budget constraints.

The budget also includes up to $10 per hour for existing part-time staff members, unless an employee already earns a higher rate.

As it now stands, the 2007 budget calls for a General Fund of $2,758,216; a Cumulative Bridge Fund of $875,850; the Health Department at $114,609; Cumulative Jail Fund at $39,413; Cumulative Courthouse at $77,367; and Reassessment at $124,78,

Meanwhile, the Council agreed to put some "found" money to use in the Microfilm Department.

Clerk Opal Sutherlin repeated a request she made to the Commissioners earlier in the week to use a $56,000 investment CD to hire part-time help and new equipment for the Microfilm Department.

The office has a serious backlog, she said, and it will only get worse as caseloads increase in the court system.

Sutherlin explained that the investment CD has been growing since sometime in the 1980s. If it is cashed, the proceeds must be placed in the county's General Fund for the Council to determine its use.

The Council approved $4,000 toward the part-time salary, and granted tentative approval of the purchase of a digital microfilm camera, which could cost up to $20,000. Final approval will come once the cost of the new equipment is known and the request is legally advertised.

In other business, the Council approved:

-- A salary ordinance change in the Clerk's Office to move $1,000 from the salary of a deputy to the salary of a first deputy.

-- Tentative approval to allot $4,000 from an investment CD to part-time help for the Microfilm Department in the courthouse. They also learned the Clerk's Office has finished copying old traffic tickets back to 1973. And they are now working on a backlog of delinquent child support payments to bring in more money to the county.

-- An additional request from the Plat Office for part-time help in the amount of $6,459. The funds will come from the plat user fee fund and is not property tax dollars.

-- An additional appropriation of $29,355 in Department of Correction money for the sheriff's department to pay bills.

The next meeting for the Council will be at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 17 in the courthouse annex, 209 W. Liberty St., Greencastle. It is open to the public.

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