County saves over #036;20,000

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 3, 2006

They say the first year is always the most challenging and perhaps that is particularly true of new officeholders. But Lawrence County Clerk of Courts Les Boggs said he’s not only made it over that first-year hurdle, he’s managed to save the cash-strapped county some money in the process.

Friday, Boggs released a report of his office’s activities for the year 2005. It included both financial realignments and customer service changes— alterations he said he is proud of.

“I believe in being accountable to the taxpayers,” Boggs said. “And when I was campaigning I said I would give yearly reports to the taxpayers.”

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Boggs said two of his greatest concerns his first year on the job was finding money to fund an estimated $10,000 in salary increases approved in 2004 before he took office and finding money for the office’s computer account, issues that left him shorter on funds than he had anticipated.

“I came in facing some bad circumstances and I’ve been able to turn it around and make it a positive instead of a negative,” he said.

Cost savings can sometimes be achieved in the most unlikely of areas and such was the case when Boggs began looking at office supplies. By switching to a less expensive, less bulky envelope for auto titles, the clerk’s office managed to save $20,000.The newer ones are not as thick and a little more plain. But the older ones were heavier and had to be glued together by staff members, so the new, ready-to-use envelopes save time as well as money.

The clerk’s office also generated new revenue by signing a contract in July 2005 with the Lawrence County Department of Jobs and Family Services to handle child support contracts.

“This has almost always been available but it’s never been done in Lawrence County,” Boggs said.

The contract nets another $20,000 annually to clerk’s office coffers.

Wanting to make his office more user-friendly, Boggs said he and his staff turned their attention to one of their largest groups of customers: automobile dealers who file in on a regular basis to transfer vehicle titles.The clerk’s office now allows auto dealers to process more titles each visit to the auto title windows. In the past, when auto dealers came in with four or five new car titles, only one was processed immediately. The others were placed in a stack and transacted later in the day, meaning the dealers had to come back again and pick up the remainder of their titles.

His office also presented an auto dealer seminar to brief business men and women on state vehicle law changes. He said he hopes to have such seminars every couple of years in the future.Some improvements are forthcoming. This year, clerks will get a new computer system to replace the 1993 model they’re using now. The new system, installed by Maximus, Inc., should be in place by the end of the summer. Boggs was able to reap a cost savings benefit even by purchasing the new equipment.

“Right now we’re charged $24,000 a year for technical support,” Boggs said. “But the clerks of court in a 10-county area got together and decided ‘hey, we’re in the same boat.’ We decided to work together as a region and purchase new equipment. We negotiated a (tech support) rate per case instead of a flat yearly fee. The new rate is $10 per case. Last year there were 1,500 cases, criminal and civil, and that amounts to $15,000, instead of $24,000.”

The newer system will also be more efficient. Right now clerks often must put new entries into the system several times to make sure the necessary information is in all the right files in the system. The new computer network will automatically send new entry information to all the appropriate files when it is entered.

It will also allow clerks to provide more information faster to the inquiring public, clerk Donna DePriest said.

“People come in and ask how many foreclosures there are and right now the system can’t pull that up,” she said. “I understand the new system will be able to. We are trying to do the best we can. We try to be efficient and friendly.”

Boggs said he will continue to work toward his campaign promise of a satellite office in the eastern end of the county, making it easier for Proctorville and Chesapeake area residents to conduct business with the clerk’s office. When he ran for office he said he wanted to open the office, even on a part-time basis, by the end of his first term.

A newcomer to the courthouse, Boggs said he has developed a good working relationship with his staff and with the union that was ratified to represent them late in 2004. DePriest, a 32-year veteran of the office, agreed.

“I think he’s made a lot of positive changes,” she said. “And he’s been easy to work for. I feel like he genuinely wants to do the best job for the public.”

Boggs said the changes are ultimately meant to do one thing: make his office more accountable to the people and more effective as well.

“What I’m most proud of is being able to serve the taxpayers with efficiency and honesty,” he said. “That is what I’m most proud of.”