By Jim Magdefrau
VINTON – The Benton County Board of Supervisors approved its budget for next fiscal year at their meeting Tuesday, April 18, 2023, at the Benton County Service Center Conference Room in Vinton.
A public hearing was held prior to the vote. Al Schafbuch, Benton County Farm Bureau, told the supervisors they were doing a pretty good job, but was concerned about next year due to increased assessments. He said, “We need to be careful next year with the assessments change, that we don’t overdo it.”
The impact of rollbacks, valuations and assessments were explained by Auditor Hayley Rippel, as well as pass-through funds. They also approved the elected officials’ salaries.
In making the motion for budget approval, Supervisor Richard Primmer pointed out they gave elected officials’ salaries an increase of 7 percent, and all others at 5 percent. At the time he said they didn’t realize this would “trickle down” to many different aspects to deputies and others.
Tuesday he recommended giving all county employees a 7 percent increase as long as this stays within each department’s individual budgets.
This is due to the inflationary trend and the trickle down from elected officials to their deputies.
He said he would include the unions with this. Primmer observed, “They have to go to the gas station just like the rest of us.” He didn’t know if this would help or hinder the county with union negotiations, but he didn’t think that it would hurt the county.
Supervisor Gary Bierschenk seconded the motion. Chairman Tracy Seeman joined Bierschenk and Primmer in approving this.
The budget is $15.3 million. The tax levy rate is $10.19 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.
The approved salaries for elected officials are listed.
Elected Official Annual Salary
- Attorney 136,441.27
- Auditor 95,574.23
- Recorder 90,385.50
- Treasurer 90,385.50
- Sheriff 132,320.70
- Supervisors 51,664.61
- Supervisor Chair 56,664.61
The board discussed the vacant Human Resource (HR) Director position and possible formation of a hiring committee.
Primmer pointed out the county has 130 employees. He thinks Benton County needs a human resources director. County Attorney Ray Lough also felt there is a need for this.
Rippel pointed out that in years past, this was done by the auditor’s office. At the time her office had four people. They now have five. When they talked about outsourcing this work, it was during Covid. She said her office is now back to where it was before.
She presented a list of what her office wants to do if these duties come back. She stressed she is trying to save money, plus the county is getting low on space to house more people. She also pointed out the general fund is at the max.
If someone has a personnel complaint, Rippel recommended using outside services.
Primmer stressed that HR is a profession. People are trained in HR. He said it was admirable that the auditor’s office would take this back. He stressed he didn’t think the office has personnel that is trained for that. He said they have a budget set and a room set up. It won’t be too hard to find space.
As large as Benton County is, they need to have professional services, Primmer stressed, that are in-house.
He said many counties the size of Benton County already have this. Tama County has had it for years.
Primmer added it would make sense to have an assistant.
Lough said one of his biggest concerns for a county this size is confidentiality. He felt the best approach is having someone who is dedicated to handling this.
Lough added he’d be happy to work on contract negotiations.
Jill Marlow, former auditor, said her office did the HR work. She felt the auditor’s office was capable of handling the day-to-day administration of policies. The auditor’s office is currently handling the duties since the resignation of the former HR director.
Primmer felt a committee should be formed and see what is out there. He put that into a motion. Primmer said he’d serve on it.
Bierschenk observed there have been things that have been lax the last couple of years because of Covid. He felt there is plenty of space to get everybody up to speed. He said he did not second the motion.
Seeman said they can see what is out there and seconded the motion. He said he didn’t want it “all dumped on her lap,” but the auditor’s office should still be in charge of a lot of these things.
Primmer and Seeman approved the motion. Bierschenk did not vote.
Megan Hall of the county attorney’s office said she’d serve on the committee and Sheriff Ron Tippett said he’d serve on it as well. Tippett suggested getting employees from secondary roads and the sheriff’s office to serve. They also suggested someone from conservation.
The board renewed its contract with Cost Advisory Services Inc.
The board discussed and approved the noxious weed resolution. NOTICE
The board gave signatures of approval for documents pertaining to CDBG-DR Derecho pass-through funding, ECICOG Service Agreement, Federal Assurances Signature Page, Subrecipient Assurances and Subrogation Agreement and Duplication of Benefits Certification.
Maggie Mangold gave an update from the public health board and their recommendations. They working towards a county-based health program. Benton County currently contracts with Virginia Gay Hospital, Vinton. They will next look for an administrator. They might also get through the next year with the help of Buchanan County while Benton County sets up its own program. A meeting with Buchanan County officials is planned soon.