QC Approves Budget, Discusses Housing Authority Operations

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Members of the Clay County Quorum Court gathered for the final time in 2018 Monday night at Corning. Prior to the business meeting, held at the county road department shed, the majority of the elected officials joined the justices for the annual Christmas dinner. Prior to considering the agenda items, Judge Mike Patterson presented plaques to the two JPs who will be ending their time on the court on Jan. 1.

With seven of the nine justices in attendance, Patterson called the meeting to order. Absent from the gathering were justices Mike Hill and Jody Henderson. After dispensing with the usual consent agenda items, the judge took a moment to recognize the two justices set to conclude their service to the county.

The first was Justice Greg Ahrent, who was elected as the mayor of Corning during the General Election and will be resigning to serve in that capacity. Patterson also recognized Justice Mike Mansker, who is retiring at the end of the year. Both were presented with plaques in appreciation of their service.

“Both of these guys have been a lot of help to me, and I sure appreciate them and their service to the county,” Patterson noted.

Of Mansker, he offered a special word of thanks.

“He did a great job of filling me in on things I needed to know, and I sure appreciate it, thank you very much,” he concluded.

Ahrent has served since the beginning of 2007 while Mansker has been on the court since 2013.

The justices then turned their attention to the business at hand, which included two ordinances. The first was Ordinance 2018-13, which appropriates funds and adjusts the budget.

The measure appropriated $35,009.42 from the hazard mitigation project; $217.20 from WW Recycling and $9,413.84 for the loss of a vehicle from an accident in mid October. It also appropriates $1,717 in donation funds for the emergency task force; $668 for reimbursement for jail employee worker's compensation due to injury on job, due to opting for vacation time instead, with the benefits being paid to the county—and amending the 2018 budgets.

The ordinance was placed on the first reading, title only, with the justices choosing to waive the stipulation it be read on three separate occasions. Following the second and third readings, title only, it was approved on a roll call vote of 7-0 along with the accompanying emergency clause.

The next order of business was the county budget for 2019, presented in the form of Ordinance 2018-14. The topic of months of number crunching and adjustments, the budget was presented for final approval. Without further discussion, the budget measure was placed on the first reading and advanced. Once again, the justices waived the stipulation it be read on three separate occasions, and approved it on a roll call vote of 7-0.

The budget forecasts revenues of $3,838,550.87 and earmarks $3,466,134.41 to the total general fund.

Patterson next introduced Rex Anne Galyean, executive director of the Clay County Housing Authority. She spoke to the court members about her department, which handles federal housing funds for properties within the county. She sought to explain the operations of the authority, which she has maintained the past 12 years.

Galyean noted she had only received one raise during the 12 year period, and was currently salaried at $28,000 a year. She indicated that she was able to earn bonuses by remaining under budget, which were paid at the end of the year. But despite the incentive pay, otherwise had only received a three percent raise in the 12 year period.

She informed the court that she is currently overseeing 121 rental properties, and presented comparisons to other counties.

“There is one agency that is handling 141 families a month and they pay $55,000 a year,” she offered. “There is another that has 87 families a month and they pay $38,760—I manage 125 and I'm paid $28,000 and I feel it should be closer to $35,000.”

Galyean related that the authority had fallen on hard times several years back, forcing her to downsize and eliminate a full time employee. In more recent years she had hired part-time work, and she was accompanied by current employee Molly Williams.

Galyean indicated Williams only works about 10 hours a week, but will be increasing the hours to an average of 24 during the summer.

“She's only paid $8.50 an hour, and I want to increase that, too,” she added.

Due to being shorthanded, Galyean noted she was unable to take vacations due to lack of a short term replacement. “Someone has to be there to take care of it,” she offered.

The justices then joined in the discussion, asking how the authority was first set-up and questioning the way the budget is prepared. Galyean informed them that no county funds are involved, as all of the administration costs are covered by HUD. She indicated the operating policy mandated that the county judge, and mayor of Piggott, were members of her board of directors.

Gaylean noted her office is paid by HUD based on vouchers, and the funds include her administration costs such as rent, utilities, payroll and office supplies. Under the current operating plan, she has the flexibility to use the funds as needed and requires no permission from county officials.

Patterson voiced concerns about the bookkeeping system, noting the authority should require two signatures on all checks and not maintain a debit card. This resulted in a lengthy, and somewhat heated, discussion on the matter.

“I'm just trying to make sure nobody ends up in jail, that we do it the right way,” the judge surmised.

Galyean indicated she handles between $350,000 and $400,000 a year in federal housing funds, and has some $55,000 in her administration budget.

“It's different all over the state, in some counties it's handled by BRAD,” Patterson said of the work of the authority. “I'm not saying she's not underpaid, but we need to look hard at any $6,000 a year raise.”

Afterward, justice David Cagle concluded that the court needed to address the matter and set-up new standards for the process. Justice Duane Blanchard then offered a motion to require two signatures on all checks written by the authority, and to switch the debit card to a credit card with a $500 a day maximum. The matter passed without consent.

“We just need to review everything and see where we stand,” Cagle said to Galyean. “We don't doubt you at all, but we need to get our ducks in a row.”

Blanchard also offered his assistance to review the authority books, and help determine the best course of action going forward.

In other business, Patterson informed the court members the meetings for both January and February will be held on Tuesday evenings, as the regular date conflicts with holidays.

Prior to closing, County Clerk Pat Poole informed those on hand that there will only be one swearing-in ceremony held this year, slated for 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 1, at the courthouse in Corning.

Afterward, the justices voted to adjourn.

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