week after hearing the news that 13 county employees jobs would be impacted by the proposed 2006 budget, county officeholders are still struggling to deal with the announcement made by the Platte County Commission last Tuesday.
Treasurer Bonnie Brown, who has been in office for five years, has continued to express her displeasure with the commissioners’ decision to make reductions in payroll amounts available to offices.
With Brown’s office being reduced from two full-time employees to 1 1/2 persons, she is certain that reduction will have some sort of negative affect on the treasurer’s department.
“We certainly won’t be able to run it as efficiently as we have in the past or provide all of the support we have in the past,” said Brown.
“There are a lot of things that happen in my office that are detail oriented and that require time and efficiency. When you’re dealing with less staff to deal with those duties, it’s hard to maintain that efficiency.”
Brown specifically pointed to how her office prepares “great spreadsheets that give great detail on sales tax revenues and provide great TIF amounts that aren’t state required” for the commissioners.
“I want my office to be as efficient as they can so they may not be as timely,” stated Brown. “I’m not saying they won’t be cut out, I just don’t know at this point. I haven’t determined what will be cut and where.”
Presiding Commissioner Betty Knight however said despite the new budget cuts she expects each office to still work toward providing the same customer service as before.
“As officeholders, we have a responsibility to the public and I believe all of us work very hard and I think we just need to run the office as efficiently as we can,” said Knight. “I presume every officeholder would do that even if there are budget cuts.”
Brown is a Democrat, the county commissioners are all Republicans. The county’s budget cuts affected offices across the board, regardless of political party of the officeholder. Brown told The Landmark last week she would rather have seen the commission raise taxes instead of cut payroll.
Brown’s office is solely responsible for the management of the county’s checking account to make sure all funds are accounted for and to make sure any excess funds that are not being used are being invested in a prudent and timely manner.
“It’s hard to put into dollars and cents what they (my employees) give to me and what this office gives to this county. We take pride in what we do in this office and having less time and money is sad because we do take pride in what we do,” stated Brown.
While Brown is handling the staff cuts with some resentment, Recorder of Deeds Ida Cox is trying to add her own personal touch of a sense of humor to the difficult situation in the administration building.
“We’re still trying to work through the shock,” said Cox. “Most of us are still carrying tissues around.”
On Friday afternoon, Cox visited The Landmark office carrying her own roll of toilet paper.
“I’ve even encouraged my employees to bring their own toilet paper to help the county out because we’re not too fond of corn cobs,” she stated.
Even though Cox has tossed around a few jokes in the last week, she said her office is trying to accommodate the county’s situation.
“I know from my heart that the commission is working hard. We’re working the best we can with the budget they gave us and I’m doing everything I can to make the process go as evenly as possible,” said Cox.
Knight said county offices were not the only ones affected by this year’s budget cuts.
Commissioners also announced that funding for the Platte County EDC (Economic Development Council) and the Convention and Visitors Bureau would also be affected, as well as funding of the Public Works Department.
Both the EDC and CVB will no longer be receiving funding from the county.
In 2005, the commission voted to reduce the EDC’s funding from $100,000 to $75,000. The new budget line for the EDC now contains only an expenditure of $10,000 that will be used to purchase the county a membership to the organization.
At the CVB, they will see a loss of approximately $55,000 in revenue from the county in 2006.
Second District Commissioner Jim Plunkett said last year $54,781 in general funds were appropriated to the CVB. This year, the commissioners chose to cut that funding completely.
“There just wasn’t money available,” said Plunkett, about the need to cut funds from the CVB and EDC.
The CVB will now be forced to rely solely on revenue it receives from a 1/4 cent hotel tax that is implemented throughout the county.
“Every department was asked to take reductions,” said Knight. “The EDC and CVB were cut and the amount of money to public works was reduced dramatically. It’s about looking at the numbers and making the numbers work.”
The public works department, which is in charge of the county’s roads and bridges in unincorporated Platte County, will see a $30,000 reduction in money from the county government.
Plunkett stated in 2005, public works was granted $94,200 in funds to operate their department. This year, Director Greg Sager will only have $63,904 to work with in his budget.
According to Knight, by making the necessary budget cuts the commission was setting out to achieve one goal.
“What we’re trying to do is tell the general public we weren’t going to ask them to pay more taxes to fund county government. We need to live in our budget just like a family would,” said Knight.