County provides budget to auditor

PARKERSBURG – Wood County commissioners signed off Thursday on financial information required to aid the West Virginia auditor determine if there are adequate funds in the new budget to give county officials a pay raise.

The auditor’s office is requiring county commissions to provide budget information to assist in the decision on whether the county has adequate funds to give the 12 percent elected officials’ pay raises approved earlier by the West Virginia Legislature.

If the auditor decides there are adequate funds available in the county’s new budget, to get the raise, the individual county elected officials must request it in writing. The form must be submitted to the county clerk’s office by the end of June.

County officials elected this November will automatically receive the higher salary when they take office, if it’s approved.

Wood County would need to come up with $52,864, which includes the pay hike and employment tax, to fund the pay raises approved by legislators.

As proposed, the salaries of the three county commissioners would increase by $13,305, for all three; circuit and county clerk’s salaries would increase by $6,653 each; sheriff’s salary would go up by $5,386; the assessor’s salary would increase by $5,386, and the prosecutor’s salary would go up by $11,592.

“I’m not totally comfortable with going with it as tight as our budget is,” commission President Wayne Dunn said.

“The funds are in the budget; it’s just where you put them, and there is a contingencies fund,” County Clerk Mark Rhodes said.

“I would hate to see us give a pay raise to the county officials when we didn’t give one to the employees,” Commissioner Steve Gainer said.

County Administrator Marty Seufer said the decision on whether there is adequate funding in the county’s budget to hand out pay raises to county elected officials who requested them isn’t up to the county commissioners.

The auditor, under the legislation, will be the one to assess the counties’ fiscal condition and annual budget and decide if there are adequate funds available.

“We actually don’t have much say, less than I thought we did,” Dunn said.

According to the pay raise bill, since Jan. 1, 2007, there have been additional duties imposed on county commissioners, sheriffs, county and circuit clerks, assessors and prosecuting attorneys by the state and federal government and that’s the impetus behind the raise.

If the auditor does not certify there is enough revenue to cover the salary increases and related taxes, the salaries will remain at the current level.

County officials said it was their understanding if the county was providing funding for outside agencies and, or had a contingencies fund, that would be deemed adequate funding for the pay raises.

“We fund outside agencies; if we were required, we could cut funding to the airport, the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Council, fire departments’ insurance, 4-H, arts organizations, senior citizens, the Area Roundtable, youth groups, the cemeteries projects. We could take them all out and pay and the auditor is looking at those,” Commissioner Blair Couch said.

“This is my eighth year in office and there hasn’t been a change in the elected officials’ pay during that entire time, but I think if you go back and look during that same time period the county employees have gotten pay raises,” Couch said. “Some elected officials lobbied for the pay raise; some did not.”

“I think the bottom line for the auditor is if there is funding going to outside agencies and the county has a contingencies, there are adequate funds,” Couch said.

“I feel the county commission is part time; the other elected officials are full time and they deserve a pay raise,” Dunn said.