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Reclassification Committee recommendations could cost county $138,000

Orange County Commissioners Court faces the deadline for adopting a budget for the 2015/2016 fiscal year while struggling to find ways to cut the budget.

During the budget process, 18 department heads requested reclassification for certain employees who were performing duties above the classification of pay currently receiving. Salaries are based on 2011/2012 Pay Matrix Table. The matrix has been used as a guideline for starting salaries for new employees however budget deficits in recent years has contributed to employees not receiving the rate determined by the matrix.

Of the 27 reclassifications requested, a Reclassification Committee recommended 17 were recommended for reclassification.

The Reclassification Committee consisted of Human Resources Manger Minnie Hightower, County Auditor Mary Johnson, County Attorney Douglas Manning and three citizens recommended by commissioners.

One recommendation is for current Emergency Management Coordinator to step up from an E3 at $56,638.40 to an E4 at $70,907.20. The notes from the recommendations sent to the court state the reclassification was warranted due to the position is responsible for the entire county infrastructure during an accident/disaster.

The committee also recommended a Switchboard Operator/Secretary should not be reclassified as an Office Manager. The suggestions by the committee were to eliminate the position and replace it with an automated system instead.

A total of nine reclassifications were not recommended and one was determined to need more information for a decision.

According to the county policy handbook, policy number 240, last revised Oct. 1, 2007, “the county personal director, county auditor and chief civil attorney acting as county liaison, along with three members of the community will form a committee to hear recommendations from elected officials and department heads. No reclassification shall be considered without the approval of the reclassification committee. The reclassification committee will recommend its findings to Commissioners Court for final approval and adoption. All changes for reclassification should effective upon fiscal year and budgeted for such changes. budget adoption approval.”

If the court approves all reclassifications, it will increase the budget by $138,000 per year.

Department heads questioned the results of the committee, as they were not notified of the meeting.

Commissioner Pct. 3 John Banken questioned if all six members of the committee were present during the meeting.

“Yes,” Human Resources Manager Minnie Hightower said during the public workshop on Monday. “The data submitted was used to make the decision. Policy is only six members not officials.”

Environmental Health & Code Compliance Director Joel Ardoin said he did not submit any of his employees for reclassification.

“I thought I was doing right by the county,” Ardoin said. “I request all positions are reviewed.”

There are 388 full-time employees with the county.

County Clerk Vickie Edgarly said she had requested to attend the reclassification committee meeting.

“We were told we could be there,” Edgarly said. “Then we are told it was already done. I thought policy said we were to be there so they could hear from Department Heads.”

The list was marked classified with only seven persons with access to it prior to Monday’s meeting. Commissioner Pct. 2 Barry Burton said he understood the document had been posted on social media sites during the weekend and the court would look into taking legal actions.

Orange County Commissioners Court will discuss and take action to approve or deny the recommendations at the 2 p.m. Monday meeting on Sept. 21.