Curry County commissioners asked their budget committee Wednesday to evaluate the impacts of reinstating full salaries of the three on the board, all of whom took voluntary pay cuts to save the county money in the past four years.
The budget committee will next meet Jan. 30.
Commissioners Tom Huxley and Sue Gold each take a $10,000 stipend and Court Boice agreed to cut his annual pay to $46,000.
The typical salary for a Curry County commissioner is about $66,000 a year, not including health and retirement benefits, said County Administrator Clark Schroeder.
Salaries changes are recommended by the county’s compensation review board, which in turn recommends changes to the budget committee — the only body that can approve commissioner salaries.
The budget committee, which also includes the county commissioners, also rejected by a 5-1 vote, a request by Boice to audit the community development department for the past four years, wondering where the money in the budget seen four years ago has gone and upon what it was spent.
When budget committee member Bill Ostrowski asked Boice if he was concerned about fraud, Boice said he didn’t want to go down that path.
“I do not have enough information,” Boice said. “I do believe there are signals coming out of that department that justify the expense of a thorough audit. Certainly, we need to get a magnifying glass and determine where all the money’s gone.”
Some noted the expense of such an undertaking, particularly if it were done by an independent, outside agency.
County Accountant Louise Kallstrom pointed out that revenue into the department increased sharply four years ago when the Curry Health District was pulling permits for its new hospital in Gold Beach.
Budget member Tom Brand said he found the request distasteful.
“I have served on two committees and public services with the county development and building department, and the only thing I saw that was out of whack was insufficient funding to operate to benefit the taxpayers of this county,” he said. “There’s no system, no record keeping, no way to come in with a potential purchaser and properly find what you can do on a piece of property.
“Without any evidence of any wrongdoing, to impugn the representatives of the people downstairs …” he continued. “I’ve worked with them. They are fine, honest human beings. … To cast doubt on their honesty is so distasteful, I’m not even going to consider this.”
Budget committee member Carl King noted it isn’t up to the budget committee to pursue audits, saying that falls to the county administrator.
“I don’t trust the county administrator,” Boice said.
“This is a question to ask of the accountant, for Pete’s sake,” said Commissioner Tom Huxley. “This is absurd. Literally absurd.”
Commissioner Sue Gold agreed, saying questions about shrinking funds should have been addressed each year they were found to decrease.
The budget committee will meet several times in the next few months to craft a budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year.
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