MADISON - The Boone County Commission heard from elected officials on Tuesday regarding a 20 percent cut that each office was ordered to execute in the wake of a $2.5 million budget shortcoming.
Each official addressed Commission President Eddie Hendricks and Commissioners Brett Kuhn and Craig Bratcher regarding cuts in personnel that would be implemented Sept. 15.
Boone County Circuit Clerk Sue Ann Zickefoose, who is on her third term in the seat, was the first to the podium and she proposed no cuts in personnel to her office.
Zickefoose presented a list of the responsibilities for her office to commissioners, saying her office's workload and responsibility has increased over 14 years.
"When I first started I had three people," she said. "Last spring I had seven people. I lost two people and it's like losing a table leg. You can't operate. I revamped and rescheduled and redone. I took the (responsibility) of those two people and divided it among the five."
"I'm submitting my budget to you and if you don't approve it I'll submit it to the Chief Judge," she said. "And then from there he can go to the Supreme Court."
Boone County Clerk Roger Toney approached commissioners. He had eight employees when he took office and will now work with five, with his office cutting two employees per the request.
Administrator Lee Ann Dale asked Toney who was now going to handle accounts payable.
"I don't have an answer to that," Toney said.
Dale responded, "Because your payroll clerk doesn't have the payroll up yet."
Toney then said, "I also know that she doesn't have the password to do the direct deposit because I asked her about that."
Dale then responded, "Her second week in the office one of your employees came and asked me how to do payroll and you're two and-a-half years and you're on your fifth payroll clerk."
Toney said, "Pay them more money and they'll stay."
Sheriff Randall White then discussed the reduction to payroll in the Sheriff's Office and tax office. White has three deputies leaving for other employment and one exploring a retirement date. According to him, his only actual cut will come in the tax office, where he will reduce one position.
Assessor Scotty Cook said his office is down two employees with another retiring at the end of October. He asked commissioners to consider the pending retirement as part of his mandatory cuts. Commissioners agreed to look at the proposed budget, but Commissioner Brett Kuhn said that more immediate action may need to be taken.
"It is just that the longer we wait," said Kuhn, pausing mid sentence. "We do want to work with elected officials and take care of the employees as much as we can."
The commission agreed to take a deeper look at Cook's budget before accepting the proposal.
Boone County Prosecuting Attorney Keith Randolph met his 20 percent cut by releasing an assistant prosecutor from his office.
Hendricks said after the meeting that cutting employees is one of the hardest things he's had to do since taking office. He said elected officials responded in a manner that he expected.
"It was a matter of shaking out each office and seeing how they'd cut and we had an idea of what they'd want to do," he said. "It is really tough. We hope that over the next year, when the next fiscal year starts our budget will be less because of the cost-saving measures we've implemented. This is a challenge, but over the next year we're going to tackle this and get it right."
Hendricks said estimating what an office can operate on at a minimum is very challenging.
"Those people are over there every day and they know what their budget is," he said. "In the end, it comes down to numbers and nothing else really matters. On the flip side, it is people's lives you're dealing with and that part of it is just so hard for us. We live in a county where we all know one another. You have to look someone in the face and tell them you have to lay them off knowing their history and the struggles they may have at home."
The Boone County Commission meets again on Sept. 17 at 3:30 p.m. in their chambers in the Boone County Courthouse Annex on the third floor.
Reporter Phil Perry can be reached at email@example.com or at 304-307-2402.