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50% pay OK’d for abolished assessors

The Harrison County Council voted last week to pay township assessors, whose duties last year were stripped by a state mandate, 50 percent of their 2008 salary.
The motion included all township trustee assessors with the exception of the Harrison Township trustee, Gerald Saulman, who is employed at the county assessor’s office.
Last year’s council voted to not pay the trustees for 2009. Some counties have elected to pay the salaries in fear of a lawsuit from the elected trustees.
The motion carried with a 4-1-1 vote. Councilwoman Leslie Robertson voted against, and Councilman Richard Gerdon abstained.
‘I think it’s kind of rotten the way they got done,’ Councilman Jim Heitkemper said.
Council Chairman Chris Timberlake, who only votes in the event of a tie, was adamantly against paying the trustees.
‘If (Gov.) Mitch Daniels abolished the county council tomorrow, I don’t expect to get paid,’ he said.
Timberlake said he doesn’t know how paying the township assessors for duties they no longer have can be justified, especially with the current difficult budget.
The total amount to be paid to the 11 trustees is just less than $14,000.
In other business last Tuesday and Wednesday during budget hearings, the council agreed to give county employees a 1-percent raise for the 2010 budget year. Only Councilman William T. (Bill) Nichols voted against the motion.
The council did, however, unanimously vote to flat-line Sheriff G. Michael Deatrick’s salary at $84,000.
Deatrick’s salary was also flat-lined last year along with Health Department Administrator Tony Combs’ salary, but this year Combs did receive a 1-percent raise.
‘He’s got a lot of responsibility,’ Councilman Gordon Pendleton said. ‘He’s probably underpaid.’
Last year, the council determined Combs’ salary was out of line with other county officials. The position was forced on the county after a state grant which previously funded the salary was discontinued.
The entire completed budget, including the county general fund, riverboat gaming funds, the highway, health and parks department funds, totaled more than $32 million.
The county general fund, which financial advisor Frank Cummings advised keeping at $8.8 million, totaled just more than $8.9 million. The riverboat gaming funds budget totaled $13.3 million.
The council will read the budget at its next two public meetings before it is officially adopted.