Cleburne Commission passes budget with 2.5 percent pay raise for all employees
by Laura Camper
news@cleburnenews.com
Sep 16, 2013 | 3610 views |  0 comments | 61 61 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Cleburne County Commission today unanimously passed a $7.7 million county budget that included a 2.5 percent pay raise for all county employees, but not before some debate about the increase.

The one point of contention was that it included elected officials. Commissioner Emmett Owen, who objected to the raise at the last meeting because it would require the county to dip further into its reserves to balance the budget, again objected to the raise.

This time, he asked if there was a different way to give the raise to employees without including the elected officials.

“The intent of the law is clearly to tie elected official raises to raises given to county employees,” said County Administrator Steve Swafford. “If you look at the law itself, it names every kind of raise you could possibly give.”

Swafford said there was no way he could think of to give the employees raises without including elected officials.

Cleburne County Probate Judge Ryan Robertson, who serves as commission chairman, asked if Owen wanted to take the raises out of the budget to pass it. Owen said it was up to the commission as a whole whether or not to include the raise.

Commissioner Bobby Brooks said he wasn’t voting for the budget because it included a raise for him. He was voting for the budget for the employees, Brooks said.

“You’ve got workers out there on the road working in the heat, working in the snow, ice, the dangers,” Brooks said. “I think the budget can bear it.”

Commissioner Benji Langely agreed, saying he didn’t see any way to separate employee raises from elected official raises.

The budget included an amendment added during a work session two weeks ago that takes a portion of the county’s tobacco tax money and allocates it as discretionary funds for the commissioners. The allocation included $46,200 from fiscal year 2014 funds and $22,300 left over from previous years’ discretionary funds. The commissioners also approved a policy outlining how the money should be spent.

Under the policy, the funds can be used for district-based projects. Each commissioner is required to present the requested project to the commission in a regularly scheduled meeting for approval. Swafford also suggested there should be matching funds required from the group requesting the project if possible.

The amendment in the budget did increase the budget deficit slightly, Swafford said. The county will be dipping into reserves for more than $800,000 to balance the budget. About half of that money will be going to bridge replacement projects. The county has allocated about $400,000 for the projects which will be paid almost entirely with grants from the Alabama Department of Transportation.

In other business the commissioners:

- Appointed Dan Hopkins to the Cleburne County Hospital Board and Scott Hanson, Benny Rollins and Mary Thomas to the County Department of Human Resources Board.

- Authorized Swafford to seek bids for a digital radio system for the county’s law enforcement.

- Approved bids for treatment resurfacing material to Charles E. Watts, Inc, for road striping to Highway Management Systems and for stone to APAC Mid-South and McCartney Construction.

- Gave its support to the Cleburne Baptist Association in the association’s effort to allow prayer in the schools.

- Declared two vehicles surplus so they could be sold at auction.

Staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.

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