The county commission Monday night adopted the new $42.4 million consolidated budget for the 2016-17 year which includes salary increases and a new wage scale for most county general employees.
(CLICK LINK BELOW TO VIEW BUDGET)
The vote to approve the budget was adopted 11-2. Commissioners Betty Atnip and Bradley Hendrix voted against it.
Salaries established under the new wage scale for employees of the County Mayor, Trustee, Register of Deeds, County Clerk, Assessor of Property, Circuit Court Clerk, and Clerk and Master will be tied to what these county public officials earn. The plan also includes five step increases for these employees with them being eligible to earn up to 44% of their employer’s salary at level five and after eight years of service. But since the county mayor’s salary is $10,000 more than the other six aforementioned officials, his employees will earn more than their clerks and those public officials (Trustee, Register of Deeds, County Clerk, Assessor of Property, Circuit Court Clerk, and Clerk and Master) have been and remain opposed to this part of the plan. There are a total of sixteen employees in these offices combined. Based on their level on the new wage scale and their years of service, two of these employees will get a raise this year of $961; two will get a $1,058 increase; one will be raised by $1,254; three will see a raise of $1,906; six will get an increase of $2,265; one will earn $5,206 more; and one will get a raise of $6,712. And because their salaries are tied to a percentage of what their bosses are paid, clerks in these seven offices will get an automatic pay hike funded by the county every time the state grants a pay raise for the county’s public officials. Sheriff’s Department employees are not included in this new pay plan because the county already has a separate wage scale in place for them.
Sixth District Commissioner Betty Atnip spoke out against the new pay plan as it relates to tying these clerk’s raises to their bosses salaries. “I just want to go on record. It’s totally wrong. I don’t get mine based on that and I don’t know of any company that bases their raises on that. I’m totally disappointed in it,” she said.
“You hit it on the head. It’s not a company. It’s a government entity,” replied Fourth District Commissioner and Budget Committee Chairman Wayne Cantrell, who supports the new pay plan.
“That’s right. And it should be paid according to how someone works. Not by their boss’s (salary). Your boss has nothing to do with the way you work,” answered Atnip.
“This is not the only county that does that,” Cantrell said.
“It’s not right for DeKalb County either,” Atnip replied.
“That’s your opinion,” answered Cantrell
“An its very obvious how you stand,” Atnip said.
“The people made a big change two years ago in these seats with a big turnover because they were tired of the way things were done up here. And they’re not getting any better in the two years that I have been on here. I just want the people to know that one person cannot do a whole lot with the attitudes that are here,” Atnip continued.
“What we could do is just leave it (salaries) like it is and base it on what the Social Security increase is every year. That is what mine is based on,” said Fifth District Commissioner Jerry Adcock.
“The situation is no matter what we would have done somebody is not going to be happy. I disagree with the percentile but that’s not my committee. We have entrusted the budget committee to make that decision and bring it before this board and we make those decisions to pass it. I disagree with it but I trust my budget committee to make the decision for this governmental body. Therefore I’m probably going to pass this (vote in favor) because we’ve got to pass the budget so we can move on with our county government,” added Fifth District Commissioner Anita Puckett.
Again the budget which includes this new wage scale was approved on an 11-2 vote.
Salary increases are also included for the Library Director, Election Commission Office employee, and Soil Conservation Secretary. They will be paid on the same aforementioned five step wage scale with them being entitled to earn up to 44% of what the Trustee, Register of Deeds, County Clerk, Assessor of Property, Circuit Court Clerk, and Clerk and Master earn at level five after eight years of service. Salaries of the Senior Citizens Director and the full time library employees will also be tied to the public officials (noted above)and they too will be on a five step scale with them being able to earn up to 37% of what these officials are paid at level five and after eight years of service.
All part-time County General Employees will be paid $10.00 per hour. Custodians will get a 2.158% increase in pay and the director of the Landfill will receive a salary of $42,000 per year. Landfill employees with a commercial drivers license will get $13 to $16 per hour and Landfill laborers will receive $12 to $15 per hour based on their years of service from one to seven years. Convenience Center employees will earn $8.50 per hour.
Employees of the ambulance service will get a 4% pay raise. The EMS Director will not receive a raise this year since his position was budgeted a $2,000 increase last year.
County Road Department employees will also see pay raises this year.
As part of the budget adoption process, the county commission set the new certified property tax rate at $1.83 per $100 of assessed value. The vote was 12-1. Sixth District Commissioner Betty Atnip voted no.
The latest five year reappraisal cycle was recently completed in DeKalb County and it showed an overall drop in assessments (property values). As a result, the new certified property tax rate, as established by the State Board of Equalization for the 2016-17 fiscal year will be increased from $1.78 to $1.83 per $100 of assessed value but it is expected to generate the overall same amount of property tax revenue for the county government as it did this past year prior to the reappraisal. Although the certified tax rate is increasing to $1.83, it doesn’t necessarily mean that property owners will pay more. That depends on whether their property assessments went up or down or stayed the same.
The new $1.83 certified rate will break down as follows:
County General: 95 cents
Schools: 61 cents
Debt Service: 12 cents
Road Department: 4 cents
Capital Projects Fund: 11 cents.
Other budget highlights include the following:
The county clerk’s office will be getting a new part time employee position. The County Clerk had sought one additional full time employee but his request was countered by the budget committee with a part time employee not to exceed 20 hours a week at $10.00 per hour and additionally contingent on the clerk cutting $5,000 from the previous year expenditures to help fund the position.
In an effort to shore up revenues in the EMS budget to help fund the operation, ambulance service billing rates were increased, effective July 1. The Basic Life Support rate has gone from $350 to $500. The rate for Advance Life Support has increased from $450 to $600 and the Advance Life Support 2 fee has jumped from $650 to $700. Mileage charges have also increased from $10.50 per mile to $12.00 per mile. The new rates are more in line with what other counties in the area charge.
A new ambulance will be purchased during the year. A total of $130,000 is included in the capital projects fund for this purchase.
The county has entered into a one year contract with a new company to provide inmate health care at the jail. Advanced Correctional Healthcare will take over the service from Southern Health Partners as of August 29. Although the new company’s services are more expensive, $204,000 per year compared to $175,000 for Southern Health Partners, Sheriff Patrick Ray said he believes the county will save money in the long run by having healthcare practitioners at the jail more often which could prevent taking inmates on unnecessary trips to the emergency room of the hospital for more costly treatment. The county will also be purchasing and equipping five new patrol cars on the state bid contract. The cars will come with warranties. A total of $159,000 is included in the capital projects fund for this purchase.
Last year the county commission set aside $25,000 as seed money for the eventual development of a new fire hall in the Four Seasons Community. This year another $50,000 has been set aside for a total of $75,000 for this project. The county will also be funding a 5% local match for a FEMA Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) which has been approved in the amount of $70,895 to purchase personal protective equipment (turnout gear) and a thermal imaging camera for the fire department. This equipment will serve all 11 of the department’s stations across the county. The Federal share of this award is $67,520 and the local matching share, to be provided by the DeKalb County Government, is $3,375. The department has also applied for another FEMA Assistance to Firefighters Grant for the purchase of a new Quint fire engine with a 75 foot aerial device. The total project cost is $554,929 including equipping the truck. If approved, the county will have to fund a 5% match or $27,746.
The budget for the Smithville-DeKalb County Rescue Squad has been increased by $6,000 this year to $22,821. Plans are to use the extra funds to pay for diving equipment, to provide certified diver training among members, and if funds are available by the end of the year to offer a small gas allowance for members. The Rescue Squad also plans to have future fundraisers to raise money to obtain a pontoon boat to aid in water rescue and recovery.
A total of $9,000 has been budgeted to be divided among six county owned ball fields at $1,500 each to make improvements. This is a one time expense.
Plans are to make the transition from the existing Class 1 landfill to the new solid waste transfer station perhaps by September or October. A total of $600,000 has been budgeted for the post closure of the Class 1 cell and for the development of a new Class 3 cell which will be used for non-household solid waste such as construction material, etc. A total of $100,000 is included in the capital projects fund to purchase a new skidsteer/backhoe. The county has also budgeted $150,000 to purchase a loader. In August, 2014 the county commission voted to enter into a five year contract with Smith County to dispose of DeKalb County's household solid waste at the rate of $29.00 a ton after the transfer station becomes operational. The county has not yet bid the actual hauling of the waste to Smith County.
The new school budget includes $258,000 from the state to cover pay raises for certified staff. That amounts to about a $1,000 increase per employee. Plans are to give a local $500 pay raise to members of the support staff/non certified personnel. The Board of Education budgeted an increase for themselves in the per diem each member receives for attending regular meetings and work sessions. Currently, board members get $50 per regular meeting and $15 per work session. The increase will put their pay more in line with the county commission, members of which receive $150 per regular meeting and $75 per committee meeting/workshop. This budgetary line item in the school spending plan has increased from $6,000 to $18,900 for the year.
Other new spending in the school budget includes:
*Funding for two and a half new positions including a new Math and RTI (Response to Intervention) teacher at DCHS and an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher.
*Funding for an additional Educational Assistant at DeKalb West School
*Funding to add a new SED (special education) teacher
*Funding to address inequities in supplement pay for DCHS football, basketball, and cheer coaches
*Funding to purchase one new school bus (instead of two buses)
*Funding for a new Soccer Field at DCHS
Third District Commissioner Bradley Hendrix said he voted against the budget partly because of the school’s boards commitment to spend up to $50,000 to develop a new soccer field at the high school when the same commitment has not been put toward other sports. “I’ve gotten phone calls over the soccer field, the $50,000. The school board hasn’t put in for the new girls softball field at the middle school. They haven’t put in for the high school football facilities. The training room and stuff like that. I don’t know what makes the soccer more important than these other sports. Just on that I’m going to vote no on the budget,” said Hendrix.
The new budget and tax rate take effect immediately.