County employees were paid Christmas bonuses Dec. 19
Just over $31,000 was paid to Grady County employees in the form of a Christmas bonus on Friday following action taken by the Grady County Commission during a called meeting earlier that day.
The decision was not made until after extensive discussion and debate.
County commissioners still do not know exactly where the county stands financially due to a delay in bank accounts being reconciled as far back as July.
Commissioners attempted to get a projection from County Administrator Carlos Tobar as to the budget situation as the Dec. 31 year end for the county’s fiscal years approaches.
Grady County Commissioner Charles Norton said that bonuses had been paid in the past when money in the salary line item for county departments came in below budget, however, according to Tobar the salary line item has been overspent in 2014.
Commission Chairman T.D. David noted that the county is not required to pay a bonus and he said it is more of a performance bonus rather than a Christmas bonus.
Norton noted that county employees receive 10 paid holidays and the board previously agreed to shutter county offices at noon on Christmas Eve which is additional time off with pay.
“This is a small token for Christmas, too,” Norton said.
Chairman David complained that it was difficult for the board to make a decision when “we don’t have any of the information we need.”
Tobar said his concern regarding the 2014 budget is the cost of employee health insurance. The county is now self insured and the administrator said there are “a lot of moving pieces” and he added, “In terms of the net cost I can’t tell you that.”
According to Tobar, the county is under budget for all other expenses. Commissioner Norton asked how much and Tobar did not immediately answer.
The administrator later retreated to his office to run some reports. Based on his estimates he told commissioners the county’s budget versus actual expenses to date showed a $647,000 favorable position based on the checks that have already been written.
Commissioner Norton reminded Tobar and the board that it takes approximately $1 million a month to operate the county and he questioned the administrator about how much had been paid out by the county to date in December.
According to Tobar, approximately $400,000 had been paid out as of Friday, Dec. 19. Norton said that meant another nearly $500,000 would be needed to fund the budget for the remainder of the month.
“If we don’t have the money to balance the budget where is the money going to come from?” Norton asked.
Tobar noted that all of the original bond proceeds issued for the construction of the Tired Creek Lake dam had been spent. Accounting Manager Connie Blackman also reported that she had redeemed two of four of the county’s certificates of deposit that make up its cash reserves and had deposited the funds into the Tired Creek general fund account.
Commissioner Billy Poitevint pointed out that Brad Cole Construction has put in a request to be paid $425,000 by the first of the year. Vice Chairman LaFaye Copeland said that the board had not voted on the contractor’s request.
Chairman David questioned the line item in Tobar’s report identified as retirement fund contingency.
“You have $160,000 budgeted and haven’t spent anything this year and you didn’t spend any of it last year,” Chairman David pointed out.
Commissioner Norton questioned the need for the line item and Tobar could only say that it was a line item in the budget when he came to work for Grady County.
“I really don’t know what it’s for,” Tobar said.
According to Tobar there is $42,119 remaining in the general fund contingency, which he said would cover the cost of the bonuses.
Commissioner Norton continued to question whether the county was going to end the year with a deficit as opposed to a balanced budget.
“I think it will balance,” Chairman David to which Norton responded, “I don’t know if we have true numbers.
Following additional discussion Vice Chairman Copeland offered a motion to pay the bonuses and Commissioner Elwyn Childs seconded the motion which passed unanimously.
“We’ve remained financially prudent and this is $31,000 well spent,” Chairman David said.
Commissioner Norton went along with the bonuses but pledged to vote against any budget amendments that may be necessary to balance the 2014 budget.
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.
Elected officials and part-time county employees were not eligible for the Christmas bonuses.