By Carra Higgins
Raleigh County commissioners are preparing to complete the 2013-2014 budget, anticipated to be approximately $14.8 million, with revenue projected to increase $1,170,000 since last fiscal year. Although revenue is expected to be higher, commissioners say they do not anticipate a levy rate increase.
Before sending the final budget to the state auditor’s office at the end of the month, commissioners are reviewing and considering department funding requests submitted and presented by other elected officials Friday morning. Some officials requested pay increases for employees and asked that the commission consider approving funding to add staff members, citing high workloads and the possibility of losing experienced, but underpaid employees.
Commission President Dave Tolliver explained during the meetings that in order to have a better understanding of the budget and whether the county is properly staffed, he and Commissioner Linda K. Epling had talked with representatives from counties similar in size and population to Raleigh. Tolliver frequently cited Harrison County while speaking to elected officials, saying that Raleigh’s staff numbers in most departments seem to be the same or similar to Harrison’s.
Sheriff Steve Tanner was among those requesting pay increases for his tax and law enforcement office employees. Tanner and commissioners discussed that Raleigh’s sheriff’s deputies make the second highest number of arrests in the state.
“I want to reward their hard work,” Tanner said.
Other than pay increases, Tanner said there were no other significant increases in his requested budget.
Prosecutor Kristen Keller explained to commissioners that her assistant prosecuting attorneys, some who have practiced law for 40 years and have experience with nearly all types of cases, are making significantly less money than circuit court law clerks who may or may not have passed the state bar exam.
Keller asked commissioners to consider significant pay increases for the attorneys whose knowledge and experience enables the office to successfully and efficiently prosecute those charged with crimes. She added that the attorneys receive no overtime pay and work extended hours and weekends to prepare for trials.
Because of the pay discrepancies, Keller said she fears some of the attorneys in her office “can’t afford to stay.”
Circuit Clerk Paul Flanagan and commissioners discussed that his office has more employees than Harrison County, but that Raleigh has more than 1,000 additional cases filed during a year than similarly populated counties, including Harrison and Berkeley.
Flanagan requested to hire additional staff members and asked that his employees be given the same pay increase if commissioners decide to award across-the-board raises to other county offices’ employees.
County Clerk Betty Riffe also asked for $2,000 pay increases for her staff members and Assessor Drema Evans requested that commissioners consider allowing her to hire additional workers.
“We’ll do the best we can with the money we have,” Tolliver commented.
Commissioners will approve the county budget at a later date before it is sent to the State Auditor’s Office for final approval.
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