April 13, 2016 Edition

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Quorum court discusses
2016 budget, raises

Megan Heyl
Staff Writer

Lawrence County Judge Dale Freeman insisted that the county budget, including several department budgets, is not being handled properly during Monday night's quorum court meeting.

Freeman voiced concerns about money not being split out into proper line items and also how County Clerk Tina Stowers adjusts department budgets after they have been turned into her.

Stowers confirmed that adjustments she makes are based on auditors' recommendations or changes that have been made since the budget was set.

She also said there are issues with splitting out the department budgets the way Freeman had requested, to which he fired back that both Randolph and Sharp counties have their road department split out the way he wants his to be.

"When the money's all in one pile, you don't know where you're at," Freeman said.

The issue of longevity pay, end-of-year salary adjustments based on years of service, for elected officials was also discussed. No official action was taken at last month's meeting and the longevity pay was left in place to be taken out at the end of the year should funds be available. Justices did agree to review the 2017 budget and try to determine a solution to adjust salaries and possibly remove longevity pay all together.

There are mandated minimum wage increases set by the state, and salaries have been adjusted to match those. Freeman said he understood the required increase and was also not against end-of-year bonuses for the elected officials, but he didn't agree with elected officials receiving raises.

In the five years he has served as county judge, Freeman said he has not seen a single elected official come before the court and request a raise for one of their hired employees.

During a time when several county employees are making minimum wage, Freeman said it wasn't right for elected officials to be getting up to a $1,900 raise.

A recommendation by Justice Lloyd Clark was made to form a three-man committee to review and recommend adjustments to the various county budgets. However, no action was taken to appoint such a committee during the meeting.

There were also suggestions to go over everything with County Treasurer Marilyn Crafton to which Freeman replied he couldn't get the treasurer to do anything. This was after Justice Nathan Crafton had already left the meeting due to negative comments Freeman had made in regard to Marilyn Crafton's work.

Also at the meeting:

County Attorney Dick Jarboe requested a public hearing be set to discuss closing the Egypt Fire District and removing that assessment from property taxes. The hearing was set for the next quorum court meeting, May 2 at 5:30 p.m.

a plaque prepared to honor the memory of Randy Rogers, who had 43 years of service with the county before recently dying at age 60, was shown to the court. The plaque will be presented to Rogers' family.

Brett Cooper gave an update on the Rails to Trails project, stating they are on track to start the sixth phase of the trail. The court passed a resolution of support for the committee to apply for a grant to finish up some paving and install some safety gates and other markings.

Freeman gave updates on the jail, which is set to break ground in the next few months, future upgrades to the courthouse including windows, doors and a new air conditioning unit, and various economic development prospects that have yet to be announced.

upon request to have all meetings at a set time and not schedule winter meetings and summer meetings separately, the court voted to have the new regular session time be set for the first Monday at 5:30 p.m.

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