Joint Board Sets County Appropriations

by Elizabeth Pitts-Hibbard

The Stephens County Board of Commissioners met on Tuesday in a joint session with the Stephens County Excise-Equalization Board to approve the 2020-2021 Estimate of Needs for county offices, appropriating nearly $11.6 million for the fiscal year.

The group discussed calculations for salaries for elected officials in the County. County Clerk Jenny Moore said that the formula reflects the new regulation via a House Bill that went into effect November 1, 2019.

The formula is derived from the population (per the 2010 census), the net value and homestead amounts provided by the Assessor’s office, the county mill rate of 10.22. Moore said that according to the formula, the salary rate for elected officials should be set between $33,762.50 and $59,262.50. The current salary is $56,562.48, which left $2700.02 to reach the maximum.

During the discussion, the Commissioners expressed that they did not feel comfortable recommending salary raises for themselves; however, the members of the Excise Board felt that the elected officials should have one.

“I think based on the fact that everyone except elected officials got increases last year…we should at least consider a salary increase for [them],” said A.L. Hutson.

After discussing the issue at length, the Excise Board approved a salary increase of $2700 for the county elected officials.

The combined Boards discussed each county office’s Estimate of Needs and made recommendations for appropriations for the fiscal year:

DISTRICT ATTORNEY LAW LIBRARY: $70,000

District Attorney Jason Hicks said that the salary expense for the Assistant District Attorney, Charles Scifres, who serves in a civil advisory capacity for the County, is shared with Grady County.

OSU EXTENSION: $146,201

Director Brenda Gandy-Jones said that this amount is an increase over the previous year; however, the allocation would allow her office to be fully staffed with a half-time Ag Educator, full-time 4H Educator, and herself as the full-time Director.

COURT CLERK: $240,687.16

Court Clerk Melody Harper said that the estimate included a small increase of $4400 over the previous year, which reflects $4000 in additional part-time salary expenditures as well as the State-mandated $400 for travel.

COUNTY SHERIFF: $853,223.54

The original request reflected salaries for a full staff of 25, including holding space for a deputy who is currently deployed. Undersheriff Bobby Bowen said that another position was open and he was waiting to fill it until the appropriations were final, but that he could fill it almost immediately. The final approved amount included salary for that position for the remainder of the fiscal year; Hutson said that when the deployed deputy returns to work the Excise Board will supplement the allocation for that salary.

ELECTION BOARD: $129,819.34

The original estimate included $20,000 for improvements to the Election Board office. Shawnda Seely explained that additional funds were needed to increase storage for the office, as well as additional features in the office to increase safety of employees. The Commissioners informed Seely that adjustments were being made in the building to accommodate added storage for the Election Board office, and maintenance supervisor Steve Kaeser said that he was planning to install a window and drawer for the office so that employees could limit contact with visitors.

COUNTY ASSESSOR: $287,510.26

Assessor Dana Buchanan said that staff turnover and the closure due to COVID-19 meant that her office is “scrambling” to keep up with deed work, mapping, and legislative changes. The estimate includes salary for additional staff.

ASSESSOR’S VISUAL INSPECTION: $380,356.96

COUNTY TREASURER: $223,459.21

COUNTY COMMISSIONERS: $1501.00

EXCISE-EQUALIZATION BOARD: $8002.00

CHARITY: $36,268.28

COUNTY AUDIT BUDGET: $40,240.18

DISTRICT COURT: $10,000

FREE FAIR: $20,000

DRUG COURT: $16,800

GENERAL GOVERNMENT: $8,744,309.90

Personal Services $269,647.60

Part-Time Help $17,000

Travel $350

Maintenance and Operation $542,000

Capital Outlay $5000

E911 $25,000

Judgments $1

Emergency Repair $6,630,048.14

Employee Matching Benefits $1,133,233

Pre-Employment Physicals $3,000

Court House Security $119,030.16

Juvenile Housing $0

TOTAL GENERAL FUND APPROPRIATIONS: $11,599,910.11