Impasse on county fiscal year 2017 budget approval

Polk County Board of Commissioners

County commissioners this week failed to reach an agreement to approve the fiscal year 2017 budget for Polk County during a special called meeting Tuesday night.

After county manager Matt Denton presented the budget details to the commission, the resolution to approve the budget was motioned by Commissioner Scotty Tillery and seconded by Commissioner Jason Ward.

During discussion of the motion, Commissioner Jennifer Hulsey moved to amend the budget to include a reduction in force for two administrative positions to fund another 1.25 percent increase in employee salaries across the board.

Hulsey said specifically that the reduction in force would be on a former secretary’s position held by an individual who has since retired and the assistant county manager position, vacated by David McElwee when he resigned to run for tax commissioner.

The amendment passed on a 3-2 vote with Hulsey, Tillery and Ray Barber voting yes and Jason Ward and Marshelle Thaxton voting no.

Commission chair Stephanie Drake Burford invoked her veto power, saying that while she supports any pay raise for county employees, she believes that they need an assistant county manager to make the county run effectively.

Hulsey stated that the fact that Ward had applied for the position of assistant county manager, it was a conflict of interest for him to vote.

“I did apply for it, and I’m no longer a candidate,” Ward said. “Because you guys would rather railroad the administration and deprive them of an assistant county manager to ensure that I don’t get the position? This is ridiculous!”

Hulsey argued that was not the issue at all, that it was merely that she believes the county employees deserve the raise.

Tillery asked the question whether or not Ward’s vote on the matter was a conflict of interest, considering that he was a candidate for the position of assistant county manager.

County attorney Brad McFall said that he “probably could vote on that,” explaining that the amendment “passed by a majority” and that “his vote was moot” since it would not have changed the outcome.

After Thaxton called for a point of order, the resolution reverted back to the original motion without the amendment.

However, the motion was withdrawn and the budget resolution was not acted on.

Since the new fiscal year begins on July 1, the county will operate on the previous year’s budget until an agreement can be reached in the July regular meeting.

Following the meeting, both Tillery and Hulsey said that their positions were nothing personal against Ward, but they only wished to reward employees for their hard work and ensure they stay around.