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FAYETTEVILLE -- Washington County elected officials should be limited in how much money they can move from a single line item to another in their budgets, justices of the peace decided Tuesday.

"It's our job to manage the county's money," said Joel Maxwell, a Republican representing western Washington County.

Next meeting

The Washington County Finance and Budget Committee will meet again at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Quorum Courtroom in the courthouse. Discussions are expected to include giving pay raises to county employees.

Source: Staff reports

The move allows justices of the peace to see how money is used in approved budgets and to see large-scale transfers before they occur, Maxwell said.

Justices of the peace approved adding a cap on line item transfers in the general funds, Road Department and Washington County Detention Center during a Finance and Budget Committee meeting Tuesday. The limit will be added to the 2018 budget controls.

Grant money and money held in automated funds are exempt, justices of the peace said.

The measure will cap transfers at $20,000 per single line item transfer or at 4 percent of the department's operating budget per transfer, whichever is larger, Comptroller Ashley Farber said. Transfers throughout the year are limited to 12 percent of the department's operating budget.

The new limits comes as justices of the peace wrestle with how best to deal with the $67.7 million budget. If all requests are approved for next year, the county likely will have a $5 million gap between spending and revenue, not counting money left unspent at the end of this year, records show.

No elected officials spoke against the cap Tuesday.

Maxwell said the cap will mean exceptional transfers will come to the Quorum Court for approval. That should help keep justices of the peace and the public informed, he said. It will only catch large transfer amounts, which are rare, he said.

Several departments have moved large amounts of money from single line items to other line items in their budgets in the past, Maxwell said. One department moved nearly $1 million, another moved about $250,000 and another moved about $170,000 -- those are large amounts of money moving, he said.

The Quorum Court approves budgets, but previously, county officials could transfer money without restriction, Maxwell said.

The Quorum Court adopted a requirement last year to make sure money set aside for fuel, oil and lubricant is used only for those things. That budget control remained in place again for next year. Also, transfers between departments generally must be approved by ordinance, according to the 2017 budget controls.

In other business, justices of the peace put off deciding on whether to give employees a raise in 2018. The decision will hinge on additional information, including the employee turnover rate, justices of the peace said.

Blair Johanson, the county's management consultant, recommended justices of the peace give employees a 4 percent pay raise to remain competitive with other cities, counties and employers. That would cost the county about $1.2 million, Farber said.

NW News on 09/27/2017

Print Headline: Justices of the peace cap departments moving large sums

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