Capper, Commission reach compromise on order

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 29, 2007

“Basically, we’re just whittling away on the budget until things disappear.”

That was the way Lawrence County Commissioner Jason Stephens described the process of finding money to plug holes in the county’s general fund.

Commissioners Thursday found the money to meet a hole in the payroll at the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office and partially meet the court order from Lawrence County Municipal Court Judge Donald Capper.

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But they’re asking other officeholders to help with more than a half-million-dollar shortfall.

Commissioners will move $40,000 out of the general fund to cover part of Capper’s court order for salaries and other expenses through the end of the year.

Capper will cover the rest of his $70,000 court order himself, by

moving money from his special projects fund. Capper had originally ordered the commission to move the entire $70,000 from the general fund last week but the two sides found a compromise.

“We got a lot of help from the judge and we appreciate it,” Commissioner Doug Malone said. “Thirty thousand is $30,000.”

Capper mused Thursday afternoon the compromise must be good because “nobody’s happy with it.”

He said even with the $70,000, he will not rehire his janitor, one of five employees he laid off late last week. He said that work will now be done by community service workers. The money will allow him to reopen his community service and adult probation departments.

“I’m happy to get this resolved,” Capper said. “I feel like the commission and the court worked together and got it resolved. I am happy about that.”

Also Thursday, the commission agreed to move $63,500 in half-cent sales tax monies to the sheriff’s office to cover the upcoming payroll for road deputies ($30,000) and supplies, such as gasoline and food for inmates ($33,500).

“That will buy baloney and bread,” Stephens said wryly.

Stephens said other sheriff’s office employees’ salaries’ line items, such as those for clerks and corrections officers, are not in as bad a shape as the one for road deputies.

What to do about payroll for the rest of the year for all county employees?

Commissioner Tanner Heaberlin suggested commissioners send a letter to other officeholders, asking if they have money in other accounts that can be moved to the general fund. To cover payroll alone for the remainder of 2007 and avoid layoffs commissioners need to find $346,500.

This does not include money for other essentials such as paying the utility bills. But Malone cautioned that layoffs may still be necessary at the beginning of next year, depending on the size of the county’s general fund carryover.

Heaberlin also suggested the commission place a moratorium on out-of-county travel requests that are paid out of the general fund.

“We got a $1,300 travel purchase order for someone and in the shape we’re in right now, I don’t think that’s a good thing,” Heaberlin said. “ …Thirteen hundred dollars would have paid Judge Capper’s postage.” He did not say what office handed in that purchase order.

Both of his ideas got approval from the other two commissioners.