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Monroe County Council Looks to Keep Costs Down

The Monroe County Council is slashing its way to a balanced budget and making an effort to make up for a loss in income tax revenue and to give employees some kind of a raise.

Each year County officials hope to provide county employees with a raise that matches the years increase in cost  of living. This year that would mean county employees would receive a 3-percent raise. But officials said that won’t be happening this year. Instead, they’re shooting for a 1.5 percent increase, but even that, County Council Member Vic Kelson said is uncertain.

Council members reduced the Chief Public Defender, Michael Hunt’s, salary  which has been equivalent to the prosecutor’s salary.  It’s now set at 10-percent less than the prosecutor’s. Kelson said the change is an attempt to make up for a past mistake.

“There’s a state public defender commission that set a standard and their goal was 90 percent.” Kelson said. ” When we checked with a bunch of other counties that were in the program none of them were paying 100 percent except us and we chose to make it 90 percent which really is very likely what we would have done in 2007 had we known that that was an option, that that was the target.”

Hunt declined to comment for this story.  Council members also voted to remove three positions from the county clerk’s office. Two of the positions are currently vacant. Council members voted to partially fund a third position, giving the employee in that position time to find a new job.  Kelson said elections often bring about position changes and openings through attrition. The current clerk, Jim Fielder has reached the limit on the number of terms he’s allowed to serve. Fielder said the incoming clerk will be able to function, but it will be hard.

“Well of course we will be find until the end of this year because the 2010 monies are already appropriated. My main goal was that the new incoming clerk wouldn’t constantly have to be going to the county council asking for new money each year,” Fielder said.

Kelson said the candidates running for County Clerk have identified personnel cuts as an intended method for cutting costs.

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