County quashes budget request

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 12, 2003

The county commission voted three to two to reject Circuit Clerk Allen Stephenson’s request for supplemental funds that would enable his office to retain one of two positions being eliminated from his office staff.

Stephenson said the recent state budget cuts have forced the State Administrative Office of Courts to cut two of his office’s six clerks. The circuit clerk’s office is responsible for filing and clearing circuit court cases. It also collects and distributes filing fees and court costs.

&uot;I’m asking the county commission to help me retain one clerk’s position so that my office will still be able to process these cases and keep the collection of fees progressing in a timely manner,&uot; Stephenson said. &uot;The county benefits from this process, because a portion of what my office collects goes directly to their new county jail fund. I know there are those who object, but I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t think it was best for all involved.&uot;

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Stephenson’s request was for $9,200 – a one-time funding for a clerk’s yearly salary that would be used in conjunction with funds requested from the city, which also benefits from fees collected in the circuit clerk’s office.

The circuit clerk said he would not ask the commission for the funds again next year.

&uot;I hope the legislature will find a way to remedy this problem when it meets next year,&uot; he said. &uot;But if that doesn’t happen, this will at least buy me enough time to rearrange my work schedules and workloads so we can get the job done.&uot;

Commissioners Frank Hickman and Jesse McWilliams voted to approve Stephenson’s request.

Hickman said he felt his approval of the request was logical.

&uot;Although I may not like what I feel we are forced to do, and I don’t like the county being asked to fund state operations, and I understand there may be some discontent from the county employees because of the salaries involved in these positions, my position is we receive money through the clerk’s office through court cost elections that is the source of our new county jail fund,&uot; Hickman said. &uot;If Stephenson is faced with the loss of two employees from his staff, simple arithmetic will tell you that we are going to lose money if his office loses efficiency by this staff reduction. We would lose more money by the staff reduction than we would by rendering assistance. His office handles more than 15,000 cases per year; it only makes sense that he can’t process as many cases with four people as he can with six.&uot;

Commissioners Gary Hanks, Daniel Robinson and Chairman William Phillips disagreed and voted against the resolution.

&uot;The state has a job to do and the state has got to do it, just as Butler County has a job to do it and we have to do it,&uot; Phillips said. &uot;We never should have been asked or put in a position where we had to consider this.&uot;

Another problem Commission Chairman Phillips brought before the commission was the courthouse heating and cooling system’s failure last week.

&uot;The courthouse system uses 4-inch mains that run throughout the building,&uot; Phillips said. &uot;One of those mains ruptured last Friday afternoon, so we had to shut the whole system down. The current system is an old one that has been there for years. Now the mains are deteriorating. We have been able to patch them and wrap them, but it’s getting to the point now that I think the whole system needs to be replaced.&uot;

Phillips suggested that a conventional heating and cooling system be installed.

The commissioners voted to authorizes the chairman to contact a company that could draw up plans and specifications for a new system and have them submitted to the commission in a special commission meeting next Monday at 6 p.m.