County court clerk asks for part-time worker again

WOODSTOCK — The third time might not be the charm for Shenandoah County Circuit Court Clerk Denise Estep.

The clerk again has asked the Board of Supervisors for funds she would use to hire a part-time worker. Supervisors heard from Estep on Tuesday during a work session on the proposed fiscal 2016 budget. Estep’s request includes $16,814 to cover the salary of a part-time, deputy clerk who would work up to 29 hours per week.

Estep asked for $35,347 for part-time wages — nearly twice the $18,377 appropriated this fiscal year. Estep also asked for $335,193 to cover full-time wages — a slight increase from $332,549 this period. County Administrator Mary Beth Price proposed only $18,745 for part-time salaries in Estep’s budget.

“The need has not diminished in any way,” Estep said. “It’s still there and actually it’s probably getting a little worse than what it was when I first came to you all two or three months ago.”

The board has turned down Estep’s request twice this fiscal year, with most members saying they didn’t want to approve a staffing request in the middle of the period. Supervisors suggested to Estep that she make her request when county officials and the board work on the next year’s budget.

Estep has provided several reasons to the board as to why she needs another worker. The office remains understaffed by almost two employees based on the state Compensation Board’s workload measures. The office has seen an increase in the number of criminal cases and concealed handgun permits processed by her staff. A part-time position has been in effect since August because of a backlog of work and an employee on unpaid leave.

Vice Chairman Conrad Helsley commented on the state’s staffing surveys and pointed out that the Treasurer’s Office is understaffed by two employees and the Department of Social Services by 15-20. Surveys also showed the circuit needed more judges.

“Well, what positions got filled — the judges positions — every one of them,” Helsley said. “But, yet they come to your office and her office and other offices and not a one got filled.”

Estep said she asks the state for money in the Compensation Board budget for a full-time employee every year to no avail.

“So, again, I guess it goes to show you that if you’re in the legislature and in the right profession you get things done,” Helsley said. “And I’m not saying they do or don’t need the judges. I’m sure they do.”

Estep said she agreed with Helsley.

“If they’re in need of more judges then I think that the offices that are taking care of those judges and what we’re having to do to keep the judges where they are [need employees],” Estep said.

Under Price’s proposal, Estep’s budget would increase by 10 percent, from $500,021 to $552,036. However, $38,500 for a maintenance and service contract for equipment and $11,141 for hospitalization insurance makes up the bulk of that increase.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com