Last Tuesday night's Quorum Court meeting is still a topic of controversy in Phillips County. As noted in Friday's edition of the Helena World, a substantial portion of the monthly meeting was taken up by approving an appropriation ordinance for a $2,000 incentive for all full-time county employees and a $500 incentive for all part-timers. Though the Quorum Court was quick to vote themselves an incentive, County Judge Don Gentry reminded the JPs that he simply cannot sign into law an appropriation that the county does not have funds to cover.
According to Phillips County Treasurer Becky Gattas, the quorum court has passed incentive and/or raises consecutively since 2007. According to Phillips County records, county employees received a retroactive three percent raise on Aug. 14, 2007 and a $2,000 incentive in 2008. Another three percent retroactive raise was given plus another $2,000 incentive in 2009. A 10 percent retroactive raise and another $2000 incentive was awarded in 2010. They received another $2,000 incentive in 2011 and another $2,000 incentive in 2012.
In the revised budget passed last Tuesday, the quorum court's budget increased $22,070, including $20,000 in incentives, $1530 in Social Security and $540 for unemployment. The court's budget increased to an annual total of $136,570.
Gattas broke the numbers down as Phillips County Quorum Court members make an average of over $1,100 per hour of meetings required of them per month.
The incentive currently on Gentry's desk has put the judge in a dilemma, as the total amount on the table is $232,000 over projection. The consequences, if passed, could be severe. Gattas noted that the county would not have enough operating capital for the next calendar year, which could result in layoffs and/or cut salaries for county employees.