Commissioners OK $5M county budget

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FARMINGTON — Franklin County commissioners voted Tuesday to approve a proposed $5 million budget for county government operations for 2010-11. That represents a $120,273 increase from the current budget of about $4.9 million and factors in $1.6 million for the detention center.

The budget now moves to the Budget Committee, which will take a look at a proposed $5.18 million in department requests and the commissioners’ proposal to determine what it will recommend to go to public hearing.

The Budget Committee has an organizational meeting at 6 p.m., Thursday, April 22, at the county courthouse and a date will be set to review budget.

Under the commissioners’ proposal, after factoring in $656,600 in estimated, anticipated revenues, the tax assessment that would be due collectively from the towns would be $4.36 million, $214,173 more than the 2009-10 tax assessment.

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The commissioners’ package eliminates cost-of-living increases for nonunion employees and elected officials in their budget as an effort to get the budget down.

Commissioners left some money in the budget for possible increases for Sheriff’ Department’s deputies and dispatchers as union negotiations continue.

Commissioners felt it was premature to include a cost-of-living increase in the budget because the budget is still above the state’s established growth-factor tax-cap, and the federal government’s not giving a cost-of-living increase, said Commission Chairman Gary McGrane of Jay.

The county’s tax cap is $4.2 million, which is $153,941 less than the unofficial proposed 2010-11 tax assessment to the towns.

Judge of Probate Richard Morton told commissioners they need to develop a process to compensate workers who have gone beyond the 20-years listed on the pay scale.

It is not fair, he said, that his wife, Register of Probate Joyce Morton, and Register of Deeds Susan Black, both elected officials, would not be compensated for their longevity with the county.

Joyce Morton has served the county for 41years and Black for 25 years.

They would not only not see a COLA increase, they would also not be given a salary step-raise on the pay scale as some others would, he said. The scale goes up to 20 years and both women have surpassed that limit. They work a full 32 1/2- hour week along with most other employees at the courthouse.

The titles of the positions of registers are on the scale but neither Morton or Black make the salary listed for working 20 years.

“You treat them like employees,” Richard Morton said. “You staff their offices as they are full-time. … They are not part-time people. Most importantly is the structure of their offices are such that they are dependent upon to pull a full load of work.”

Commissioner Fred Hardy of New Sharon said McGrane has been with the county for over 20 years, works part-time and is an elected official and won’t be seeing an increase either.

“I think it’s right for me, it’s right for you,” Morton, who is also elected and part-time, said. “I don’t think it is right for the two people who work as full-time employees.”

County Clerk Julie Magoon said this affects both elected positions and employees who have worked beyond 20 years..

“If you put Joyce and Sue on the pay scale at 20 years, they would get a slight increase,” Magoon said.

No one on the board has required Morton or Black to work 40 hours a week, McGrane said.

If they feel they want to work less hours, it is up to them, he said.

“We are trying to maintain a budget within the cap,” McGrane said. “My suggestion is to get a charter and make these people employees.”

When she was first elected commissioners wanted a full-time register, Black said.

She asked McGrane if he was against putting elected officials, who have more than 20 years on the pay scale?

“Yes,“ McGrane said.

Hardy said that both women’s pay reflects being full-time employees.

“So the word elected makes us less of an employee?” Black asked.

“Yes. We didn’t hire you. It is an elected position,” McGrane said.

dperry@sunjournal.com

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