Wharton reviews budget request with commission

PARKERSBURG – Wood County Prosecutor Jason Wharton and Circuit Clerk Carole Jones were among officials talking about their 2013-1014 budget requests with the county commission Monday.

Wharton noted while his salary line request appears larger this year than last, he said actually it reflects salaries that have remained the same for the last two years.

“It appears it’s a request for more, but the funds for a grant position were not included before,” Wharton said. “Beginning July 1, 2012, the county essentially eliminated all independent contracted employees and moved them to part-time county employees,” Wharton said, noting he had a grant-funded victims’ advocate and victims’ advocate assistant in his office. “Our budget has never shown that,” the prosecutor said.

“There was no increase, my budget now reflects the true salaries rather than a reduced number which does not take into account the grants we received and grants that are no longer awarded,” Wharton said.

Wharton did ask his assistant prosecutors and secretaries be considered for pay hikes if funding is available.

The prosecutor’s budget lists $426,480 last year in assistant prosecutor’s salaries and $498,426 this year; secretaries total salary line item was listed as $239,080 last year, $236,913 this year. The prosecutor’s total budget last year is listed at $1,151,305 and this year $1,235,784.

Wharton said his office is trying to help the county keep regional jail bills in check, noting he recently called a special grand jury and has been able to save the county about $27,000 in regional jail expenses.

“We are in the process of converting to a new case management system, which Wharton said once converted will save a monthly charge that totals $4,896 annually. The new system was developed by the county information technology computer specialists. Wharton said it cost about $5,000 for the conversion and another $3,000 for the needed additional scanners. “We were able to do it within budget without asking the county commission for additional money. And going forward we will also see expenses down for files, filing cabinets and related expenses as well.” The savings will not be seen until next fiscal year’s budget. “I don’t plan on spending the funds in there now, but we want those funds in the budget this year until the system is completely converted, just in case.”

The current case management system in place was first implemented in 2006.

Also Monday, Circuit Clerk Carole Jones told commissioners there is a proposal before the Supreme Court that would eliminate a requirement that orders be placed in order books if a county is doing scanning.

Jones serves on the liaison committee for the circuit clerks association and the Supreme Court on the measure.

“They will now seek public comments on the change,” Jones said, noting it looks like the measure will be approved.

Jones has repeatedly asked the commission to consider the purchase of equipment so scanning could be implemented in her office. Cost estimates were put at more than $136,000.

“I think everyone agrees scanning would save money and time. It’s just a matter of us having the money to do,” said commission President Wayne Dunn. “We’d ask you keep your eyes open for any grant possibilities. If we can get the funding, we will definitely look at the scanning system.”

“We are having more time spent retrieving older divorce records, which are required by the Division of Motor Vehicles now. No matter how many times a woman has been divorced, she now has to produce every order. If we had scanning we could get the information at the push of a button, now the girls are having to leave to go to storage areas to get the documents,” Jones said, noting storage continues to be an issue for her office.

Jones asked for salary raise consideration for her employees whom she said are “still lower compared to other salaries.”

“I have also compared the number of employees in my office to comparably sized other counties and they all have more deputies than I do,” Jones said. She has 12 full-time employees and some part-timers.