QC Handles Budget Shortfall

Friday, March 23, 2018

Justices addressed a budget shortfall at the regular meeting of the Clay County Quorum Court, held Monday evening at the courthouse in Piggott. With all members in attendance, the JPs also passed an ordinance appropriating funds and amending the budget, and another which amends the employee handbook. The latter was in response to a recent ruling by the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division (WHD) concerning overtime and comp time and pay.

The matter of comp time and pay has been an issue for the past several months after the WHD was alerted by an employee of the sheriff's department of the situation. The complaint apparently stemmed from the accumulation of comp time, which was not allowable by auditors under the former system. In addressing the matter, the court had amended the employment policy handbook to limit the amount of time an employee may accumulate, and stipulated how and when it could be used.

Late last week the WHD ruled the sheriff's department could not accurately report all overtime, based on the fact many of the deputies never reported or sought payment for those extra hours. In response, they ruled $63,349 be distributed among all the affected employees. This equated to roughly two years of comp time pay.

“Going forward we've got a good handle on what's going on, this is something that has affected departments across the whole state,” Sheriff Terry Miller said of the issue. “We'll likely need to make more changes to the personnel policy.

The justices noted their appreciation for the job done by the deputies, but echoed the sentiment that overtime and comp time be more closely regulated.

“I don't begrudge anybody getting paid for the work they do,” Justice Dennis Haines offered. “But, I do have with anybody getting paid for work they didn't do.”

“We've got budget issues, we're looking at over $107,000 we didn't have in the budget,” long time finance committee member David Cagle explained. “Due to a mistake in calculating on our part we're short $22,447 in pay for deputies, we approved an extra $15,000 for the sheriff's department earlier this year for overtime and we authorized new computers for (circuit clerk) Janet (Kilbreath).”

These expenses, along with the $63,349 adjustment by the WHD equates to a total of $107,396.

“Luckily, the sheriff has money in his commissary funds, and he's willing to use those funds to help with the shortage,” Cagle explained. “He doesn't have to, these are discretionary funds, but they can be used for anything such as jail upkeep and the purchase of vehicles.”

Cagle noted the sheriff's department will still be able to purchase two new vehicles as previously planned, as they will be utilizing grant funds for much of the acquisitions.

The justices voted 9-0 to allow the commissary funds to be used by the department for funding jail maintenance and other efforts.

“I don't want people to think that all of the deputies were a part of the problem, that's just not true,” Cagle added later. “All of them have worked hours they didn't report, they've told me they feel it's a part of the job. It was not an issue with more than just a couple of them, we've got some great people working for us.”

Ordinance 2018-03

The justices approved an ordinance appropriating funds and amending the 2018 budget without dissent. Waiving the requirement it be read on three separate occasions, the JPs approved the measure and the accompanying emergency clause on a roll call vote of 9-0.

It applies $6,600 to the circuit clerk's small equipment fund; adjust salaries in the sheriff's department; adjusts the jail budget; makes changes to the DARE program budget along with that of the Emergency Task Force. The complete ordinance may be found published elsewhere in this edition.

Ordinance 2018-04

The justices additionally passed an ordinance to amend the employee handbook, addressing changes needed following the recent issue concerning overtime and comp time and pay. It amends the policies first established in February of 2002.

Addressing the agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor, it specifies personnel in dispatch will work no more than 40 hours per week without being granted compensation excess of hours over 40 at time-and-a-half. It further specified deputies and jailers will only be compensated with overtime if they work in excess of 86 hours during a two-week period, and will also be compensated at time-and-a-half. Exceptions are provided for the chief deputy and jail administrator as they are exempt from the rules.

Waiving the requirement it be placed on three separate readings, the ordinance was approved 9-0 along with the emergency clause allowing it to go into effect immediately.

During the meeting Judge Mike Patterson informed the court of a request to plant a memorial tree on the courthouse lawn, as he sought their input.

“It could get to be crowded out there if we let everyone that wants to plant a tree or put up a monument do it here and in Corning,” he explained. “We don't really have a policy on that.”

In response the court indicated Patterson should use his best judgment as he handles each individual request, noting they would stand behind his decisions.

Those on hand for the meeting in addition to Judge Patterson and Sheriff Miller were justices John Mansker, Dennis Haines, Jody Henderson, Mike Hill, Duane Blanchard, Richie Culver, Jeff Douglas, Greg Ahrent and David Cagle. Also on hand were county clerk Pat Poole, treasurer Carolyn Morrisett, assessor Tracy Gurley, circuit clerk Janet Kilbreath, administrative assistant Yvonne Settlemoir and district court clerk Linda Dixon.

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