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With financial picture fuzzy, county may not pay bonuses

Grady County employees may not be paid a Christmas bonus this year as they have in the past due to uncertainties with the finances of county government.
With the clock winding down on 2014 and Christmas coming next week county officials have been working to bring financial records up to date in order to determine if there is money left unspent in the budget that could be used to cover the approximately $31,000 it would take to cover the bonuses for the county’s 115 employees.
“I can’t give you accurate information at this time,” Grady County Administrator Carlos Tobar said Tuesday night at the county commission’s last regularly scheduled meeting of 2014.
“Christmas is next week and you knew we were going to talk about this,” Vice Chairman LaFaye Copeland responded.
According to Tobar, he and his staff are working to get the financial records “caught up.”
“What’s the hold up then?” Commissioner Elwyn Childs asked.
Tobar says there are issues with some checks and Accounting Manager Connie Blackman has contacted the county’s accounting system software provider to request assistance.
“Connie called last Thursday and as of 4:30 p.m. today we haven’t heard back,” Tobar told commissioners at their meeting Tuesday night.
The county administrator told The Messenger he thought the issue was with two checks, but he could not be specific as to how much the checks that were written were for or who they were written to. Tobar also could not explain specifically how the two checks could hold up the process of updating the county’s financial records.
Commissioner Charles Norton said that the county staff has acknowledged that the payroll line items for the 2014 budget have been overspent by approximately $4,000. In years past when bonuses have been paid the money to pay them was taken from unspent money in the approved salary line item.
“If the money is not there then it’s just bad business. We can’t pay a bonus if the money is not there. I’m sorry,” Norton said.
All of the county’s bank accounts still have not been reconciled as of this week, but in November Tobar said, “I can’t imagine we are more than a week from being done. It’s pretty simple. I see the workload and I see what is being done everyday and how close we are. I think we will get it done very quickly.”
Tobar also told county commissioners in November that according to his estimates the county’s cash position was approximately $1 million improved compared to 2013. The county administrator has since backed away from that statement and has not given a specific answer as to what the actual numbers are at this point.
The backlog in bringing financial records up to date is blamed on employee turnover in the commissioners’ office since Tobar took over as administrator.
The turnover is also the reason county officials say that the 2013 audit was not submitted to the state on time and was just recently approved earlier this month.
However, this week it was learned that the audit approved by commissioners on Dec. 2 contained errors after The Messenger questioned Tobar about several departments within county government outspending their respective budgets in 2013.
Auditor Tom Carmichael made some revisions and has submitted the revised document to the state even though the county commission has not approved the revised version.
The changes may result in a corrective action plan having to be filed with the Georgia Department of Revenue.
Grady County Commission Chairman T.D. David said Tuesday night he is attempting to have a called meeting later this week with the auditor and the board so that the auditor can explained what was changed.
Tobar said that even though the board has not voted on the revised document the board did approve the budget amendments in 2012. “You’ve already seen the numbers,” Tobar said.
“We haven’t seen financial statements with those numbers however,” Chairman David responded.
Vice Chairman Copeland asked how the county proceeds from here concerning the Christmas bonuses.
Tobar said he “hoped” to have up-to-date and accurate financial data soon.
“Does this have to do with the servers? We are supposed to have new servers,” Commissioner Childs asked.
According to Chairman David that issue still has not been resolved, but he said that was not the issue in having updated financial information. “This is all coming to a head,” David said.
“If we need to change companies, then we need to change companies,” Commissioner Childs stated and Commissioner Norton added, “And get our bank statements reconciled.”
“Well, the employees and the department heads are asking me about the bonuses. I told them we would discuss it, but there is nothing I can do about this,” Vice Chairman Copeland said.
“I wanted to give you accurate, up-to-date information so you could make a decision, but it’s just not available right now,” Tobar said.
The cost of the bonuses in 2013 was $31,300. Employees with six months to one year experience were paid $50; employees with two to five years experience were paid $100; employees with six years to 10 years service were paid $250 and employees with over 10 years of service to the county were paid $500.
In the past, elected officials and part-time county employees were not eligible for the Christmas bonuses.

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