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Berkeley County Commission stretches tight budget dollars

June 27, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- An $18,000 pay raise approved for the Berkeley County Commission's human resources director was reduced by $8,000 this week, according to records maintained by County Clerk John W. Small Jr.'s office.

The original pay raise approved June 5 by Commission President Steven C. Teufel, Ronald K. Collins and William L. "Bill" Stubblefield for Alan J. Davis also came with a new job title of assistant county administrator.

But Davis' job title reverted back to human resources director with the second salary adjustment, according to a memo dated June 25, 2008, and signed by all three county commissioners.

The assistant county administrator position approved earlier this month was not part of the county's salary classification schedule adopted in 2006 and was not advertised, Stubblefield confirmed Thursday.

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"Legitimately, we would have had to advertise the position (with the first pay raise approved)," Stubblefield said.

Davis' salary increase earlier this month, along with additional staffing enhancements for the Commission office, angered the county's other five constitutional officers, who agreed to sweeping budget cuts and a hiring freeze to avoid a deficit earlier this year.

In Thursday's meeting, the Commission continued to watch the county's bottom line and decided to pay only certain bills. Those included a $170 purchase order dated June 4 for a framed and matted photograph of former Berkeley County Commissioner Howard L. Strauss. The photograph was mounted outside circuit courtrooms in the county's judicial center this week.

"I was not aware of it until (Wednesday night)," said Stubblefield, who has routinely asked for clarification on individual expenditures in the commission's weekly meetings. Stubblefield on Thursday asked about a $52.50 legal bill, but no one mentioned the framing bill.

As of Thursday, the county had about $1.4 million in unpaid bills and about $3.4 million in the bank, but the expenditures do not include about $2.4 million owed to the county's 911 fee account, according to financial records maintained by Small's office.

In an attempt to reduce the outstanding obligation to the 911 account, the County Commission has asked the West Virginia Public Service Commission to be allowed to charge the county's Central Dispatch department for $1,265,400 in back rent from 2002 to June 2008 and about $100,000 in vehicle insurance, vehicle supplies, worker's compensation and unemployment compensation charges.

"The Commission inadvertently paid the building rental charges (etc.) ... from the county's general fund for many years," county legal director Norwood Bentley III said in June 18 letter to the PSC's executive secretary.

"While we realize that our request comes at a very late date, we respectfully ask that this matter be handled on an expedited schedule, since the fiscal year is coming to a close (on June 30, 2008)."

Prosecuting Attorney Pamela J. Games-Neely on Thursday told the Commission not to "roll" unpaid purchases of the county's other elected offices into the 2008-09 fiscal year budget or risk running them into a deficit like the Sheriff's Department is facing.

"We are not discretionary spending," Games-Neely said referring to state code, which she said requires the Sheriff, Prosecuting Attorney, Circuit Clerk, Assessor and County Clerk offices to be given priority in funding.

Before her comments, the Commission agreed to take action in the coming weeks to keep Sheriff W. Randy Smith from being in violation of a state law that requires him to keep half of the department's budget available for the next sheriff, who will take office Jan. 1, 2009.

The Commission also agreed to allow Circuit Clerk Virginia M. Sine to purchase about $32,000 in copying and scanning equipment to keep her office running smoothly.

"I need my scanners desperately," Sine said after the Commission signed off on spending money that is available in her budget.

"We're operating now on a shoe string," Sine added.

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