Board considers cutting positions

Conrad Helsley

WOODSTOCK – Shenandoah County government workers shouldn’t expect a bonus next year.

The Board of Supervisors took a first step of balancing the proposed fiscal 2017 budget by eliminating a one-time bonus for the 163 government employees.

County Administrator Mary T. Price included the performance-impact bonus in her proposed spending plan that would take effect Jan. 1, 2017, and provide $750 to each employee for a total of $122,250. The bonus would be part of the annual employee evaluation process but would not affect ongoing salaries, the pay scale or retirement compensation.

Board members agreed to remove the bonus from the picture – for now – to help reduce a $5.4 million deficit between what Price recommended and how much revenue the county can expect to receive next year. By cutting the bonus the board reduced the county government’s share of the deficit from $2.74 million to $2.62 million. The $122,250 amounted to less than 1 percent of Price’s recommended budget.

The current budget included a merit pay increase for county government employees that took effect Jan. 1 this year and affected salaries. The county used $91,100 to cover the increase.

Richard Walker

Chairman Conrad Helsley asked board members how they felt about the bonus. Supervisors Cindy Bailey and Marsha Shruntz were quick to suggest they eliminate it.

“I’d like to see it stricken,” Bailey said.

“I feel very poorly about that,” Shruntz added.

Vice Chairman Richard Walker sided with Bailey and Shruntz.

“I can appreciate we’ve had people working hard,” Walker said. “It’s hard for them to not get a little bit of an increase-for-appreciation thing but at this point I have to agree that until we see where some other funds are coming from, we just can’t afford it and I’ll end up saying that about a lot of things.”

The board can strike the bonus now and then to restore it to the proposed budget later, Helsley noted.

At least two supervisors said they supported cutting three or four positions from the budget that the county added in this fiscal period. The county added full-time positions for the general registrar, the library and the Department Social Services and a part-time employee in the Tourism Department. The county used $118,823 from savings that ultimately covered the cost to add the employees that it now must continue to pay or eliminate.

Bailey suggested the board cut all four positions, saying each had been added through use of savings. Shruntz echoed Bailey on all but the part-time employee in the Tourism Department. Other supervisors did not agree with Bailey or Shruntz. Supervisor Steve Baker said the departments needed the help. Walker didn’t voice an opinion either way on whether or not to keep or cut positions.

“I just think that these positions should be stricken because we don’t have a way to pay for them,” Bailey said. “I don’t think they should have been paid for out of the general fund.”

The positions are now in the general fund, Finance Director Mandy Belyea said. The money taken from savings to cover the positions wasn’t necessarily allocated to any specific purpose, Belyea added. Bailey noted that those departments’ budgets have now increased since the addition of those employees. Belyea concurred.

Shruntz suggested the board eliminate the library archivist and the family services specialist in the Department of Social Services.

“There’s a lot of people over there (in the Department of Social Services) but we can consolidate,” Shruntz said. “We need to put these positions together, some of them.”

Helsley said he didn’t think it would be wise to cut the position from the Department of Social Services given that they are short-staffed.

“I’d be reluctant to cut any of these at least at this time,” Helsley said.

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