Tentative county budget raises base pay for clerical workers to about $21,000
No tax hike planned, but higher property values expected to leave county with a surplus
Kerry Craig | News-Telegram Assistant Editor

Aug. 4, 2006 -- Hopkins County commissioners are close to completing work on a budget of more than $14.8 million for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, according to Hopkins County Judge Cletis Millsap, who said the tentative budget also contains a planned $4 million surplus at the end of the year.

The projected budget calls for revenues of $14,846,146 and expenditures of just more than $12.9 million.

An increase of approximately 8 percent in overall property values in the county this year will enable the county to round out the financial plan without changing the current tax rate of 54.25 cents per $100 of property valuation.

"The valuations were up and we are going to use the additional money that comes in on the evaluations for several things," he said.

One of the largest cost factors in the proposed budget will be good news for the county's clerical workers.

"We are raising pay for employees, especially at the lower echelons," Millsap said. "They have not been making at least a living wage, so we are raising their salaries up to around $21,000 at the minimum."

With pay rates ranging from just over $8 an hour for the lowest level clerk — or about $16,600 a year — to a high of $11 an hour for a clerk II, the county has been considerably below that offered by private businesses and other counties, according to information the judge provided the News-Telegram in May.

Millsap said the pay increases made good business sense, and commissioners hope that the increase in pay for clerical workers will help slow the turnover rate in county offices.

Commissioners met with the district clerk, county clerk and tax collector to look at the salary structure and employee classifications to get a better idea of how the county could better compete with the private sector in keeping employees.

The lower classification of clerical employees, who are responsible for handling legal and court documents, were being paid at a lower rate than the lower level positions who work on maintaining county roads.

The proposed budget will also address the increase in the cost of fuel for county departments. Fuel costs are up more than a dollar from the same time last year, while fuel consumption is up for emergency response vehicles because of the drought and increased congestion on Interstate 30.

Grass and brush fires, attributed to the drought conditions, along with an increase in traffic on the interstate and other highways, have meant the sheriff's office and the county fire department must respond to more calls.

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