County council members were hit with a number of requests for more money at Monday’s meeting. County Plan Commission Director Robert Shanahan, County Assessor Pat Monroe, County Recorder Sharon Shiltz and County Highway Superintendent Jeff Brill asked for consideration of projects that will take more money.
Shanahan asked council to raise the wages of Code Enforcement Officer Jason Boggs. “He has been a full-time code enforcement officer since January 2010 and is entitled to the wages set forth in the county wage study adopted by this body,” he said. He indicated the wage study shows a spread of $15.2 to $26.27 for the position.
Prior to becoming a full-time employee, Boggs was a contract employee of four towns in the county – Shipshewana, Topeka, Wolcottville and LaGrange. Shanahan asked that the wage be moved from the current $13.37 to $16.50 an hour.
He proposed to fund this through a line item in the plan commission budget named “part-time code enforcement officer.” “We have not, nor will we in the future, fill this position,” Shanahan said. He noted the request was approved 3-2 by the HR committee.
After lengthy discussion, the motion to increase Boggs to $15.50 an hour passed 6 to 1.
Mike Strawser, the negative vote said, “Every year all employees are asked to do more and accept more responsibility. I don’t see how we can give one person a 16 percent increase when we have done nothing for the other 180 or so county employees for up to five years.”
It was noted that nearly all county personnel are being paid at or above the recommended wages suggested by the wage study.
County Assessor Pat Monroe told council members that the 2011 pay 2012 tax information is on course for timely tax statements this year. However, the 2012 pay 2013 tax season is a different story.
Monroe said the data entry for the new reassessment is at 23 percent, far below where it should be at this time. She told council members that 14 more hours are needed each day to get back on track. That would mean two more full-time people or an additional 2.3 hours of overtime for each of her four full-time people to correct the situation.
“Last reassessment, there were six full-time people in this office and tax bills were late because of the work overload,” Monroe stated. She admitted there has been help turnover in the assessor’s office, causing some lost work time. The county offices work a 36-hour week.
Council members approved up to $20,000 for overtime pay to come from the reassessment fund.
Both Monroe and Shiltz asked the council to consider their requests for a chief deputy. The chief deputy positions have been somewhat of a yo-yo the last few years. Neither the auditor nor clerk had a chief deputy in 2011, while the sheriff and county clerk retained their chief deputies.
Starting in 2012, both the auditor and treasurer were again allowed to fill their chief deputy positions. The assessor and recorder argued that their offices were being treated unfairly and should also be allowed the chief deputy positions.
Council President Jac Price directed the requests go to the HR Committee for review and recommendation to the council.
Highway Superintendent Brill presented a five-year capital plan to the council that will require close to $500,000 each year in funding. Brill explained that the 1995 and 1998 trucks are in need of lots of repair, some of which will be very expensive. He also noted that in 2001 four trucks were purchased all in one year. “These four trucks are showing considerable rust on the cabs and cab mounts,” he explained. “There is nothing to weld patches on anymore.”
He suggested a purchase of two trucks a year at a cost of somewhat over $350,000 a year. “We can mount the bodies and do some of the work ourselves, saving a considerable amount of money,” he stated.
In addition there will be a need for a new motor grader. “What we have are 1997 and 1998 models, and hopefully we can come close to swapping the two we have for one new grader,"”Brill continued.
Brill also suggested that the county consider purchasing a new hydroscopic at about $350,000. “I suggest we make a lease-purchase on this with the money to come from the bridge fund,” he said.
Council also voted to move ahead with the paperwork to double the Cumulative Capital Development tax rate. This will increase the annual levy from about $300,000 to about $600,000. This money can only be used for capital improvements such as sheriff cars, highway equipment, new buildings or major building repair.
Council placed a moratorium on requests from what has become known as the Major Moves Interest fund. “With nearly no income, and little chance that we will give anything consideration, I think it is the right thing to do,” said Ryan Riegsecker, chair of that committee.