Piatt County’s budget is now more in the black after correcting an error that had revenue listed on the expense side.
Shifting those expenses to the income side of the ledger gives the 2021 budget about $70,000 more income than revenue for the county general fund. The document approved last month had about a $10,000 surplus.
Finance Manager Linda Leach found the mistakes in the budget after it was approved. Leach said $63,705 in a county board expense item needed to be included as working cash income instead, along with $942 in EMA that should also be general fund income.
An amendment to the budget was approved at a special county board meeting on Dec. 3.
The amendment also included a $5,000 increase in the salary of zoning officer Keri Nusbaum, who also serves as the county board secretary.
“Keri, our zoning officer, has been doing two jobs,” said county board chairman Ray Spencer. “She’s doing secretary work for the board, she’s doing zoning, and we’re getting a lot more stuff going, the wind farm things, the FOIA requests. It’s just a lot of stuff.”
He also felt an increase was needed to keep Nusbaum in her current job, saying that she had received other offers.
“My opinion is, to keep her in the job, we’re going to have increase the salary of that position,” which after the pay bump is budgeted at $45,986.
County Circuit Clerk Seth Floyd did not doubt that Nusbaum deserved the raise, but felt it was a bad precedent after the county approved 2 percent across the board raises for non-union personnel in 2021, pointing out that the county’s main operating fund is still about $1 million in the red.
“While again this is not personal, I think it is very short-sighted in the sense that we have been asked as department heads to trim budgets, not to take wage increases. In this instance today, we did just the opposite of that,” said Floyd, who spoke in the public comment portion of the meeting after the amendment was approved 6-0 by the board.
He also felt the amendment could widen what he called a “divide in our county employees, in the courthouse especially. It’s not a secret here that it has become somewhat of a hostile working environment.”
At that point, Spencer interrupted, commenting that “Keri does more work than anybody in this room. Very valued, Seth. I’m not going sit here and listen to you.”
To which Floyd responded, “well, actually, you’re going to listen to me because it’s public comment. This has no bearing on Keri. Personally I think she deserves the world. But you have to look at the optics that she is not the only employee here.”
Spencer then said, “sit down Seth. Please sit down.” Floyd continued, noting he is allowed two minutes during public comment per county board meeting rules.
Floyd pointed out the county hired a budget consultant (Bellwether) to help draft this year’s document, and called it “counterproductive” to amend the budget three days into the fiscal year.
Outgoing board members honored
It was the final meeting for outgoing county board members Renee Fruendt, Dale Lattz and Bob Murrell, who were given plaques commemorating their service.
“This is a small token of our appreciation,” said Spencer.
The county board will reorganize with new members Jerry Edwards, Todd Henricks and Gail Jones on Dec. 7.