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Pay hike of five percent
suggested at county

Cost to fund would be $425,000

by Ivan Foley
Landmark editor

In the eyes of Kevin Robinson, Platte County auditor, five years without a pay raise for county employees has been long enough. In his recommended budget for 2013, Robinson advocates a five percent pay increase across the board for county employees.

Cost of the pay hike to taxpayers would be $425,000, Robinson says, including payroll taxes and benefits.

Robinson recommends using $425,000 of what he says is an estimated $2 million in “cash-carryover” funds to cover the costs of his recommended pay raise for employees.

Robinson’s proposal is just that--an auditor’s recommended budget that begins the process of the county officials formulating a 2013 budget. The next major step in the process will occur after the first of the year, when Jason Brown, presiding commissioner, and newly-elected associate commissioners Duane Soper and Beverlee Roper will review proposed budgets with respective officeholders and department heads.

Roper and Soper will become official members of the commission on Jan. 1, replacing Kathy Dusenbery and Jim Plunkett.

Approval of a final budget is required to take place by Jan. 30.

In promoting the concept of a five percent raise for employees, Robinson took into account the length of time since the last pay increase.

“It has been five years--if they don’t get one this year it would be the sixth year without a raise,” he said. “I’m recommending a 5% cost of living allowance adjustment, equal to less than 1% per year over the past five years.

“The cost of turnover, a real cost of doing business recognized by private sector employers, the county experienced in 2012 alone exceeds the cost of the COLA in recruiting and training, not to mention the lost experience, expertise, and overtime paid to cover shifts, particularly in law enforcement and patrol officers,” Robinson remarked.

Brown, reached by The Landmark on Monday, said he had not yet had time to review Robinson’s recommended budget, which was released Friday.

“That’s what he has said he is recommending. A budget document is a work in progress,” Brown pointed out.

Brown said there are two things of which he feels certain.

“Number one is that we will pass a balanced budget and number two, it probably won’t make everybody happy. And I’m not being disrespectful by saying that. Everybody is going to ask for different things. We’ll look at the needs that we have and how to pay for those needs. We’ll go through line item by line item,” he added.

In his budget message, Robinson criticized the county commission.

“During the past two years, a lack of business acumen has been demonstrated by the majority of the commission, resulting in a politically charged, unsustainable budget philosophy. This has put the county in a critical position, limiting the available options to address the federally mandated unfunded radio system,” he said.

Earlier this year in a Landmark article, Robinson said the commission’s budget philosophy was “unsustainable.”

In 2011, Robinson said he certified the agreement with Motorola on the radios, based on a reasonable assurance funding would be available through the property tax levy.

“In September of this year at the annual tax levy public hearing, the commission elected not to raise the levy five points as needed to generate $1.1 million per year, beginning one year before the first $1.2 million payment is due on Feb. 1, 2014. State law allows an increase of the levy in even numbered years only. The levy cannot be raised until September 2014,” Robinson said.

“The levy was the safety net to pay for that. If they didn’t want to take a tax to the people, it should have been raised this year,” the auditor told The Landmark this week.

The commission in September lowered the property tax levy from two cents per $100 assessed valuation to one cent per $100 assessed valuation.

In 2013, there is an interest-only payment of $256,000, along with about $100,000 over the year in lease and utility payments associated with the emergency radio system.

That payment will be covered by moving the balance, roughly $900,000, of what is known as the KCP&L fund into the radio system fund.

The $900,000 was the balance of construction permit fees paid by KCP&L not spent on construction management or inspections associated with construction of the Iatan II project, Robinson said.1

“The prior commission’s intent to fund this project and other mandates through the general fund without taking the appropriate, politically difficult, action to raise the levy is unreasonable. Continuing on the current unsustainable course of dependency on the general fund will deplete cash and in 2017, the county will not be able to meet its financial obligations and the two known federally mandated unfunded programs--health care reform and radios,” Robinson stated.

Also of note in his recommended budget, Robinson establishes funding of $24,000 for a housekeeping position and another $24,000 for reestablishing a receptionist in the administration building, positions that were eliminated in the 2012 budget.

“The combination of personnel and service point’s reductions has resulted in cutting services to the citizens, not the best use of the county’s resources. The effect of these cuts is a $45,000, or more, technical staff member taking out trash and vacuuming the office. The end result is not a cost reduction as intended, but increased cost shifted from administration to the offices and departments,” Robinson said.

“The evidence of the decision is apparent throughout the facilities. The place is not clean like it was when I got here two years ago. Carpets are not shampooed, there’s dust. . .” the auditor told The Landmark on Monday.