Newly Appointed Jackson County Equalization/Excise Board members approved the FY 2013-2014 County Budget during a special meeting on Thursday, Oct. 10, in the County Clerk’s office of the Courthouse, after discussing points of contention raised by former excise Board members, specifically increasing county employees pay by $250 a month.
After the meeting was called to order, with several County Officers present, Chairman John Lingle highlighted the powers and duties of the Excise Board pursuant Oklahoma State Statute. “In it’s functioning it is hear by declared an agency of the State as part of the system of checks and balances required by the Constitution, and as such it is in power to require adequate and accurate reporting of finances expenditures for all budget and supplemental purchases…But, it shall have no authority thereafter to deny any appropriation from lawful purpose if within the income and revenue provided,” Lingle read.
Lingle stated, “These budgets in my opinion are provided by these folks that know what their needs are, and these are elected officials. And I’m held accountable to the state of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma tax commission.” Lingle added that he didn’t believe it is any excise board member’s duty to influence policy. “If something is out of line it’s my duty to see what’s going on there and make sure we stay within our budget.”
Member Jason Winters inquired about the County’s borrowing history from it’s own Sheriff Department during previous years to fund County operations. Jackson County Sheriff Roger LeVick explained that about four years ago the County had borrowed around $450,000 from the Jail’s General Fund, and last year $120,000. Sheriff LeVick stated that this year they won’t have to borrow any money at all.
Winters asked what has changed that lead up to the County not needing to borrow any more money from the County Jail. LeVick informed that over the last three years they have been able to pay jail employees out of the General Fund for nine months out of the year, and then their Cash Fund for three months of the year, thus creating a surplus. Additionally there has been an increase in revenue at the County Jail, and overall a decrease of having to spend budgeted funds. County Treasurer Rene Howard added that recent construction and building projects have added to the county’s growth, making assessments on property go up which also bring in revenue.
“Do you see any potential down fall over the next couple years?” Winters asked.
County Assessor Lisa Roberson stated, “We’re up 4.5 million from last year. We’ve seen a steady increase for several years.” Roberson stated that the only drawback has to do with Public Service of the Oklahoma Tax Commission and taxing intangibles of businesses differently now, resulting in a 3 percent loss this year, but will not have any negative affect in the future.
Winters then asked for a more exact description of what accounts fund employees’ pay. He then sought clarification on why all employees would receive a raise and not just those who are exceeding on job performance.
Court Clerk Rhonda Stepanovich explained that generally employees earn the same pay whether they have been there a few day or 20 years, per state statute on County government. Employees who work less hours will not not receive the full raise.
Lingle added, “The reason that I don’t have any problem with these things were looking at today is, I totally trust those of you working on it. And in my opinion if you;re not doing your job, you’re going to have to answer to those voters in this county. You don’t have to answer to me or any of us. I trust each and every one of you.”
Winters commented, “The last thing I need to see happen is have you go back to the point three years ago where you guys are borrowing from the Sheriff’s Department.” Winters also noted that the past investments made on the County Jail as an evident benefit to County revenue.
Further discussion included receiving a stipend in 2011; having only received two raises in six years; and County employees pay scale needing to be more competitive with surrounding counties as well as compensate for cost of living.