Treasurer says county can't cut state-mandated salaries

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By Ben Bomberger, Reporter

INDEPENDENCE — Grayson Treasurer Fields “Junior” Young was upset with the board of supervisors after several cuts to his department and pleaded his case during a public hearing for the 2008-09 budget on June 12.

“I’m quite upset,” said Young. “I unleashed my terror on the county administrator this morning. The last place I thought I would be would be here to talk about my budget.”

Young says that the county balanced its budget in part by cutting state-mandated pay for part-time workers in his office. Localities are not allowed to cut the salaries, which are paid by the state.

Young said when he first prepared his budget he was, “so happy.”

Having already cut 8 percent before the board asked for any cuts, he felt like his budget was exactly where it needed to be.

After County Administrator Bill Ring went to the department heads and asked for an additional reduction of 5 percent from each, Young said he cut as much as he could, but still felt pretty good.

“I did come to some budget hearings and I didn’t need a pat on the back,” said Young. “I did what I had to do based on what I needed. I budget for only the needs we have.”

When he received a memo from Ring asking for even more budget cuts, Young said he couldn’t believe what he saw.

“I told Mr. Ring, we’ve got a problem here,” he said. “I was told, ‘this is what your budget is and you’ve got to live with it.’”

After looking at his budget, Young realized several things were wrong. He said the salary lines for both full- and part-time employees were incorrect.

“The code of Virginia says the [Compensation Board] approves those amounts and you must put those in there,” said Young of the salaries for constitutional officers. “Some amounts... you will have to reinstate.”

Young added that his department’s part-time salaries were completely wiped out, but the State Compensation Board mandated that the county have a certain amount in the budget.

“I’ve got the paperwork if you want to see it,” said Young. “I’m here to work with you, not against. I do everything I can every year to try and not spend my budget, but if you don’t anticipate expenditures... it’ll come back and hit you.”

After talking to Ring, Young offered to move the salary for a county employee who reads water meters into his budget. The treasurer’s office will take over water billing in July.

“Let me have that gentleman’s pay and I’ll get the state to pay for it... which will save the county money and it’s perfectly legal,” said Young.

The department can have his salary paid by the state because the employee can be used as a payment collector.

“Another category that was wrong was the office supplies,” Young told the supervisors. “It was zero’d out. I can’t operate with zero dollars in office supplies. This is ridiculous, guys.”

After closing the public hearing, Supervisors Chairman Mike Maynard made a few comments regarding the proposed budget.

“This budget reflects the hard work of the county administrator, the department heads and this board,” he said. “We managed the budget in an efficient and cost effective manner.”

Maynard continued to say the tight budget reflected the current economic state of the county and that all departments had to make sacrifices.

“This budget was made especially difficult by state cuts — we started $200,000 in the hole.”

Despite those issues, the board managed to provide what Maynard described as “quality services” without high taxes.

He added that the plan was for office supplies and furniture to be bought in bulk to be more efficient.

Without considering the state-mandated additions that will have to be placed back in the budget, the spending plan balances, with total revenues and expenditures sitting even at $15,153,930.

• The supervisors will hold a meeting June 26 at 9:30 a.m. in the boardroom of the courthouse to close out the current budget and vote on the proposed budget for 2008-09.