Several county employees ask BOC for raises

August 27, 2015

By Rosemary Horvath
Correspondent

 

Clare County Commissioners are wrestling with rewarding elected officials and department heads salary increases.

 The next budget session is tentatively set for 9 a.m. Sept. 2. An appeals session when department heads are invited to plead their case for extra money is 9 a.m. Sept. 9. Check the county website for any changes.

 Commissioner Jim Gelios expressed at a recent budget session earlier this month he doesn›t want increases piecemealed with some now, others later. «Not saying they don›t deserve it,» he said.

 Commissioner Don David seemed to push for immediate action, realizing the increase would be drawn from the fund balance. “We can’t keep putting off employees,” he said, adding that Sheridan Township in his district is concerned the county equalization director will look for a higher-paying job elsewhere.

 Director Kim Halis›s current salary is $43,860. She received a two percent increase in 2014, as did all county employees.

 Halis has requested an increase of $21,134 for 2016. County Administrator Tracy Byard recommended $5,000. Commissioner David suggested $10,000.

 Commissioner Dale Majewski suggested creating a tiered system when giving salaries. He opposes relying on the fund balance to cover increases and he doubts if increases can happen all at once.

 Lori Ware, director of community development and senior services whose salary does not derive from the general fund, pointed out county finances are in good shape and the fund balance is at 14 percent.

 Giving a lesson on budgeting, Ware reminded commissioners even though a budget is balanced with fund balance dollars, the county typically doesn›t spend the sum allotted. Consequently, the fund balance grows at the end of the fiscal year because most departments end with unspent revenue.

 «The budget is a working document. By law you balance the budget by Sept. 30,» she said, highlighting that line items in department budgets don’t end the fiscal year at zero. Revenue exceeding expenses settle into the fund balance sum too.

 Department heads may plan budgets anticipating «the big thing» happening, such as an unexpected expense that may not occur. «Department heads do it monthly to meet auditor requirements,» Ware noted, but money from this line item ends up in the fund balance as well.

 Both Ware and Byard stressed county spending has not exceeded revenue.

 «Two years ago the county was in the black with a $200,000 surplus because taxes come in late,» Byard said. «In 2014 the surplus exceeded $400,000. Jail revenue (from bed rentals) has exceeded estimates.»

 Byard added that no money was taken out of the $1.4 million fund balance in 2014. Instead, surplus was added.

«Then why are we borrowing $1 million to fix this building?» Commissioner Gelios queried. «The sheriff wants to remodel the jail because of a lack of space in holding and booking and wants other improvements. We need to discuss our costs.»

 Sheriff John Wilson earns an annual salary of $57,324.77. His request for 2016 is nearly $9700 of which the board may lower  to under $7700.

 Wilson has taken on duties of supervising Central Dispatch and, more recently, the Information Technology department. Commissioners learned his salary increase could be covered by the 911 millage.

 Commissioner Gelios opposed using millage dollars, saying «I don›t think voters passing 911 millage meant for it to go for a salary increase. The county›s economy is always one of the lowest.»

 Commissioner Samantha Pitchford noted Wilson›s requested increase amounts to a 13 percent hike.

 Included in Byard›s balanced budget is a seven percent increase for elected officials and department heads. Upping that to 10 percent translates to an estimated $75,000 with retirement and fringe benefits included.

 Departments are saddled with more unfunded mandates issued by the Michigan Legislature. One example is the cumbersome new law for Freedom of Information Act requests which involve more paperwork and lower fees even though the work fulfilling requests has increased.

 Board Chairman Jack Kleinhardt asked Byard to recommend an amount the county can add to expenditures.

 In other business, the county board swiftly approved budgets for 40 non-general fund budgets. Commissioner Majewski abstained from voting because his wife Carol Majewski is the nutrition director for Senior Services. Among the «Other Funds» are budgets for Road Fund, Friend of the Court, Conceal Pistol Licensing, Drug Enforcement, Clare Water System, USDA Loan Debt Funds, Drain Fund, Veterans Trust, Senior Citizens, Community Development departments and Airport Fund. Estimated revenues total $18,922,637 compared to estimated expenditures of $18,981,187.

 

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