County council finances cause discussion, unanswered questions

Pulaski County Council members were bombarded with a number of questions regarding finances and employees’ salaries which caused a great deal of discussion and few answers. 
During a regular council meeting Monday evening, council members heard from the county health department and the maintenance department regarding financial issues. They also approved revisions to the salary matrix. 
One of the first issues that caused a lot of discussion and frustration came from the health department. The health department budget is in the red by $16,300. Pulaski County Health Department Director Terri Hansen asked the council what they should do. 
Council president Jay Sullivan suggested the department calculate how much funding will be needed to cover the expenses for the rest of the year. 
Sullivan said a special session can be held to help correct this problem. “There are issues with the county as a whole,” he said. “There is something that is going to have to be done with the taxes.” 
Maintenance director Jeff Johnston was the second person to approach the council about finances. Johnston said he has received a second invoice for the elevator construction. 
“The problem is the entirety of that money hasn’t been moved into an account yet for the invoices to go out smoothly, which means there is nowhere to draw this money from,” Johnston said.
Johnston is referring to the whole $489,000 that is the projected cost of the project. During one of the previous meetings, the council approved to transfer $100,000 to cover the costs of the project. Johnston said since then $98,100 has been paid toward the project. There is now an outstanding invoice of $27,879. The project still needs $389,000. 
A motion was made by councilman Ken Boswell to advertise $389,000 in an additional appropriation. 
Johnston then asked when the invoice could be paid. At the last project progress meeting, it was discussed that the contractor will not move forward with the project unless the bills are paid in a timely manner that is in accordance with the contract. 
Sullivan said the contractor needs to understand that he will get his money. It could be more than 30 days before the additional funding is approved because of advertising the additional appropriation. Sullivan questioned if Johnston has $27,000 in his budget. Johnston said he does and he would be happy to use that money to ensure that the contractor continues to work. The money would have to be transferred to a commissioners’ account. 
The final issue Johnston addressed was the salary amount of two part-time employees. He was informed that the pay increase was denied because the council did not make a motion in November when he first approached them. During the November meeting, the council discussed it and said no motion needed to be made because they are following the county matrix. Johnston was told by the auditor’s office that the hourly amount of the two employees would revert from $15 to $13 and the employees would have to pay the money back from the last six months. He requested that the council make a motion to set the record right. 
Sullivan said he doesn’t believe that the employees should have to pay it back because it may be a mistake on behalf of the county but the pay rate may need to be reverted back. He said if there is a difference in interpretation regarding the matrix then the county needs to get someone else to do it, not the council.  
Wheeler said an official vote was not taken in November. She said if the council does not make it official then she will ask for the money to be paid back.
Sullivan again said the matrix is being interpreted in different ways and it needs to be done by someone other than the council. 
No formal vote was taken in regards to Johnston’s part-time salary question. 

See the full story in the Pulaski County Journal, available in print and e-edition.

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