Harrison Co. discovers more money as budget talks heat up

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - The so-called rainy day fund and employee pay raises were discussed by Harrison County supervisors on Monday. The discovery of some one time money from several old accounts led to a spirited debate.

You'll recall that a proposed four-percent pay hike for county employees was voted down by supervisors just last week. But the sudden availability of some extra funding, rekindled that pay raise issue.

The money was discovered in an old payroll account, a hurricane-related fund and a worker's comp account.

"More of it was transferred over to this worker's comp fund than had to be paid out under the contracts. It has built up over the years. We could get rid of a million dollars that's built up into it," said Harrison County Comptroller Doug Armstrong.

Such money could be added to the county's cash reserve or so-called rainy day fund; a reserve that's recommended to be about 15 percent of the county budget.

"We're still going to be within that percentage that's required. We're protecting the taxpayers if we have an emergency," said Supervisor Marlin Ladner.

"But these figures were not available last week, at last week's meeting," said Board President William Martin.

"This information is what should have come to this board before we even start this budget process. The fact that it's coming today, quite frankly, just burns my butt. I'm gonna be honest with you," added Supervisor Windy Swetman.

The comptroller works under Chancery Clerk John McAdams, who defended the discovery of those extra monies.

"To find this took a lot of work and a lot of effort on their part. And it's not a surprise that we're just going to ambush y'all. It was found," said McAdams.

"I'm prepared to make the motion to give a four percent pay raise," said Supervisor Ladner.

This time, the pay raise motion failed for lack of a second.

"This is our seventh year for no raises, and I understand with the economy and all. And it's hard on the employees. They work hard. They're dedicated," said County Administrator Pam Ulrich. "But they understand if we don't have the revenue, we can't do it."

The pay raise issue isn't dead. Board President William Martin urged supervisors to look over the new financial numbers and continue the discussion next Monday.

The new budget is set to be adopted on Tuesday.

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