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Township assessors granted pay through 2009

The Harrison County Council agreed last Wednesday night to pay in full the salaries of the township assessors of Harrison County for 2009 despite the property tax relief bill passed by the General Assembly that terminated their assessing duties as of July 1, 2008.
The council is required to pay the level two certification for those who qualify, an amount of $500 each. But, Attorney General Steve Carter left the decision to the county councils regarding the township assessor’s pay after 2008. The total money needed to fund the nine township assessor’s salaries is $46,280, the same as 2008.
‘We’re paying for what services?’ asked Councilman Chris Timberlake.
‘They have no official duties, they’re entitled to it because they got elected to a four-year term,’ said Council chairman Carl (Buck) Mathes. ‘It might save us some litigation down the road.’
Other township assessors in the state have already filed suit, and Mathes fears the same could happen in Harrison County.
Legal counsel Shawn Donahue informed the council that the attorney general said the township assessors should assist the county assessor.
Councilman Gordon Pendleton made the motion to pay the salaries with Councilman William T. (Bill) Nichols seconding. Councilman Ralph Sherman joined in favor. Timberlake and Councilwomen Rhonda Rhoads and Leslie Robertson were opposed. Mathes broke the tie, allowing the motion to carry.
Before the move to pay the township assessors, the council had whittled down the county general budget total under the $8.7 million recommended by financial advisor Frank Cummings by more than $29,000. To help bring the total back below the recommended figure, Timberlake made a motion to freeze the council and commissioners’ salaries, negating their 3-percent raise. Rhoads seconded the motion, and Robertson and Nichols also voted in favor carrying the motion.
The council’s final total for the county general budget is $8,693,603. The final riverboat budget was $3.79 million, down from the nearly $6 million approved by the commissioners. The council also placed $823,000 in the economic development CEDIT fund and $351,057 from the rainy day fund.
In other budget business, the council did not give a raise to Tony Combs, the public health coordinator for the county.
‘I’d like to see us cut him back to $42,000,’ said Mathes.
Mathes said the position was originally funded from a grant. But after the grant was taken away, the council provided the funding for it.
‘What he gets is out of line with the rest of the county,’ he continued.
Pendleton then pointed out that the nurse would make more than Combs. Mathes said he would accept that because the nurse has more years of training.
‘You’re not comparing apples to apples, Gordon,’ he said.
Pendleton said he can’t support paying a department head less than those under them. He then made the motion to leave the salary at $47,000, which passed unanimously.
The council also added a full-time and a part-time dispatcher for Greg Reas, the county’s Emergency Management Agency director and administrator of E-911 dispatch services.
The budget will be read at the council’s regular scheduled meeting on Monday, and they are expected to approve it on Sept. 22.