Kim Paisley-Jones Breeze-Courier Writer
CHRISTIAN COUNTY — The Christian County Board Finance Committee met Wednesday evening.
Christian County States Attorney Wes Poggenpohl presented a question to the Finance Committee about the ability to use discretion to modify the salaries for the Assistant States Attorney 1 and 2 positions, but keeping within the budgeted amount of $131,000 total for both positions combined. “I’m in a position of having one assistant and trying to find another. I’d like to be able to improve what we’re offering to someone coming in and be able to increase the one we already have, but stay within the boundaries. The number we’re advertising, we’re not having luck getting anyone. I’m not sure if it’s the number or the position, but I think it’s a common theme Mike (Havera) had. The position we’re advertising right now is an entry level position. But if I don’t get an entry level applicant and I want to be able to offer slightly more than what I’ve got. I don’t want to have to say, I’d like to offer you this job, but I’ll have to get back to you in a month after I go to two meetings to get it approved.
Christian County Treasurer Betty Asmussen confirmed the original amounts approved by the committee were $76,000 for the Assistant I position and $55,000 for the Assistant II position. “You guys had increased Assistant I from $72,000 to $76,000,” said Asmussen. After some discussion, the committee voted to make the salaries $71,000 for the Assistant I position and $60,000 for the Assistant II position.
Supervisor of Assessments Chad Coady spoke to the committee about levying for solar farms – 5% or greater Truth in Taxation. Coady explained “The solar farm will have a high assessed value and that is a large amount of tax dollars. But in order to get the tax dollars to where it’s not rolled into the total, the county and all the other levying bodies would have to levy for it that year when it becomes available. If they don’t levy for it that first year they don’t get any additional money, other than the normal levy percentages. It would be rolled into the base and the tax break would be adjusted. It gets pretty complicated because we’re a PTELL (Property Tax Extension Law Limit) County. Let’s say you have a township that has a total assessed value of $20 million and you have a project that’s coming in that’s $20 million, if nobody levied for extra money the tax break would basically be cut in half. If that same project comes in and all the levying bodies levy for that full amount, they will get that large first time value and the tax base stays the same. But with a solar farm, every year there’s a depreciation that’s factored in there, so the tax rate stayed the same but every year as that depreciation goes down the tax rate will creep up to compensate for that extra money. It’s a little different than real estate because real estate doesn’t typically depreciate like that. The solar farm has a built in depreciation by the state. It’s almost too complicated to discuss without a slide presentation and extra material and other offices being involved. The decision won’t have to be made for a couple of years. I’m just making you aware of it tonight to let you know it’s coming.
Treasurer Asmussen updated the committee regarding the ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) Funds. She attended a conference call recently, along with Venice McWard and Linda Curtin, and learned that the language would be changing in regards to the funds. The guidelines have been changed and now you can use a standard deduction of anything $10 million or less. However, you will either take the standard deduction and include your whole amount all or nothing. You can’t put half of it in the standard deduction and half in the ARPA Funds. (The County currently has $6.2 million in ARPA funds). You will have to make a decision by April 1, 2022 whether the county is going to do the standard deduction with the whole amount of $6.2 million. You guys are allowed to use that for county services. It’s basically free will to spend the money however you want. You should not make anymore disbursements until you determine what you want to do. We will have to change the ordinance to reflect the language change.”
After much discussion by Christian County Board Chairman Matt Wells, the committee approved a motion to change the language of the ARPA funds to standard deduction and adopt the ordinance.
Circuit Clerk Julie Mayer and Chief Deputy James Baker made a proposal to the committee for the purchase of a new E-Citation system from Digiticket. The cost of the project could total $128,571, but that includes a 15% discounted price through February 28, 2022. The Digiticket program will provide a quicker and safer way to record citations that police officers write when an offense has been committed. In short, the officer would insert the offender’s drivers license into a handheld scanner that would gather all the information needed to write a ticket. It is a very quick and accurate procedure, helping to reduce errors in reporting and improving officer safety on the side of the road. The information would immediately be downloaded to the Circuit Clerk’s office, as well as be able to share with other law enforcement agencies. The funds for the project would come from the Standard Deduction (formerly ARPA funds). The motion was made and approved for the funding of $128,571 for the E-Citation Project from the ARPA funds.
There is a proposal for a new HVAC System for the Courthouse at a cost of $525,000 plus 12% for engineer costs for a grand total of $588,000. Board Chairman Matt Wells explained it qualifies for funding from the ARPA fund due to COVID safety protocols.
Committee Chairman Venice McWard presented a proposal sent by the Personnel Committee to set the hourly rate for the Dwanna Kelmel, employee of the Christian County Animal Control, who will be taking over the day-to-day operations for Vince Harris. The Personnel Committee voted in a previous meeting to make her an hourly paid employee vs. a salaried employee. The Finance Committee voted to improve a salary increase from $15.88 per hour to $16.88 per hour.
Christian County Treasurer Betty Asmussen voiced her displeasure at having an agenda item not placed on the agenda.
“Last month I asked the Finance Committee to discuss salaries. Why is it not on the agenda?” said Asmussen. “Because I didn’t put it on there. What goes on the board agenda is my decision. And the reason it’s not there is the personnel, policy and procedure committee had an issue with salaries, which they dealt with. I asked them to forward that on here so it could be decided tonight. That committee felt like the full board needed to change the salary language before sending it to this committee,” said County Board Chairman Matt Wells. “Okay. Which that’s fine,” said Asmussen, “But again, no communication with the individual that requested to be on the finance committee.”
“I’ll admit I had a tough week and I should have communicated,” said Wells.
“Second, I asked Liz (Hile) to put me on the finance for the CDEP for discussion. Again, an elected official asking to be on finance to discuss CDAP and I get told Matt says he’s moving that over onto the full board. This has to do with money, so, again, no conversation, no dialogue, no explanation as to why. I’m just a little curious as to why I don’t get informed why it got put onto the full board when the money starts here at the finance (committee),” said Asmussen.
“Nothing starts in finance. Nothing should ever start in a committee. The full board should be sending stuff to the committee,” said Wells.
“Well don’t normally we do it in committee then send it to the full board?,” said Asmussen.
“The elected members of this board are entitled to know what’s going on. And while I apologize to you again for the third time tonight for not communicating better with you in the past week, I believe that 16 people are elected to the County Board and 16 people make decisions. If they don’t want to try and deal with it in a board meeting, those committee members can decide which committee things should be sent,” said Wells.
“Okay, because that’s almost backwards. Because I thought you had committees to discuss in committee. Therefore, the committee would send everything to the full board. But that’s fine. We’ll send this one because Matt requested that it goes to the full board on the CDEP because, hey, you get to make the decision on which committee or full board it goes to,” said Asmussen.
“What I’m saying is the full board should decide which committee they send it to. It shouldn’t be me. It shouldn’t be you. It shouldn’t be Julie,” said Wells.
“So what the hell did we just do ARPA funds on this committee to first to send it to the full board then,” said Asmussen.
“I believe those things were talked about at a board meeting. I know I’m not perfect. Betty, I’m not trying to tell you that I am but I do know that the air conditioning the full board talked about it. I do know that Julie’s (Mayer) request was sent in here by the board,” said Wells.
“So a budget, not bargaining, we determine, the finance determines and sends it to the full board, you’re saying that this has been completely wrong the whole time?,” said Asmussen.
“I believe so. If the full board wants to sit in a meeting and decide the entire budget that should be their choice.
“Okay I’ll look that up. I’ll confirm that,” said Asmussen.
“You look that up,” said Wells.
“I will,” said Asmussen. “Go ahead,” said Wells. “I am,” said Asmussen. The committee voted to adjourn the meeting with no further discussion at 8:30 p.m.