What does $7,500 buy the county?

In December, Clark County commissioners voted to turn down a scheduled pay raise, and, for reasons you can read about here this meant agreeing to donate the scheduled increase to the county’s general fund.

At the same time, commissioners asked elected county officials whose salaries are tied to what commissioners earn to consider making a donation of their own to the general fund.

The auditor, assessor, treasurer and clerk earn 95 percent of a commissioner’s salary.
The sheriff earns the same salary as a commissioner.

Commissioners earn $100,224, but they agreed to keep their salaries at their old level of $98,224.

So how much has been donated to the general fund?

I will note that just because they are public officials, it doesn’t mean I can go storming into the payroll department and demand to see copies of their paychecks. Each official did tell Dave Ratliff, the county’s payroll department supervisor, it was OK to tell me how much money has been donated.

Through Aug. 25, the following amounts have been donated to the general fund:

Commissioner Steve Stuart: $1,734.60

Commissioner Marc Boldt: $1,440.75

Commissioner Tom Mielke: $1,129.80

Assessor Peter Van Nortwick: $1,185

Clerk Scott Weber: $765.60

Auditor Greg Kimsey: $675

Sheriff Garry Lucas: $583.38

Treasurer Doug Lasher: $0.

In a Sept. 6 email, Lasher wrote: “I plan to write a check to help cover part of the cost of a new ticket kiosk used by customers in our office that is planned to be purchased by the Auditor, Assessor, and Treasurer Offices in the next few months. Also, there are a couple other projects that still may be in the running for which I have been waiting to see if there is a need to help fund. Before the end of the year, I will have written a check less taxes to cover the pledge of a salary freeze.”

(Ha ha. Like the rest of the public, Lasher doesn’t trust that the county knows how to best spend his money.)

The general fund, projected at $280 million for the next two years, has been cut by $62 million since the 2007-08 budget.
About two-thirds of the general fund goes for public safety, including the sheriff’s office and county jail.

My first question was why the figures for commissioners were different. The other officials were given the option of how much they wanted to donate, but commissioners were supposed to have the same amount of money deducted.

The best I can figure is it’s a percentage taken off after other deductions. Stuart, who has donated the most money to the general fund, must have the highest net income. (Stuart said there’s a pre-tax retirement investment program that former Commissioner Betty Sue Morris told him to sign up for and he’s yet to do it. I hope Betty Sue is reading this and tells Big Stu that he should have followed her suggestion.)

The total, so far: $7,514.13 for the general fund.

Budget Director Jim Dickman gave two examples of how far that money can go.

  1. Jail: The current daily rate to house one inmate is $76. Therefore, $7,500 would equate to housing one inmate for 98 days.

  2. Community Mental Health – Residential bed days: The daily rate is $61. Therefore, $7,500 would equate to treating one person for 123 days.

Bonus! This blog also shows why it is less costly to get people mental health help before they wind up in the jail.

That’s enough numbers for me for the day. I’ll write an update as soon as Lasher writes that check.

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