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Article 47
Published: Wednesday, December 10, 2008 at 9:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, December 10, 2008 at 1:30 a.m.

Commissioners split on worker reclassifications
Questions arise over whether part-time workers should receive retirement benefits

By Seth Stratton
Staff Writer

County department heads recently completed a reclassification of all their employees, but a few newly defined positions drew scrutiny from some Davidson County commissioners at their meeting Tuesday night.

The commissioners approved $22,810 for retirement benefits to part-time employees by a 5-2 vote. Commissioners Larry Potts and Don Truell voted against the personnel resolution, concerned that cutbacks were being made in other aspects of the county budget in light of tough economic times and projected revenue decreases. They said county department heads and administrators could have found ways to have fewer part-time workers who are eligible for retirement benefits.

The county now has 153 part-time positions without benefits and 22 part-time positions which receive retirement benefits, 18 of which are now filled. No part-time employees receive insurance benefits.

County Human Resources Director Jim Tysinger said any employee who works more than 1,000 hours a year, a little more than 19 hours a week averaged over 52 weeks, is entitled to retirement benefits. Tysinger said the county hadn't always been correctly compensating these employees and needed to reclassify these positions to comply with state regulations.

"We've identified, that over the years, we haven't strictly followed that," County Manager Robert Hyatt said of the county's retirement benefits policy for part-time workers.

Potts asked why the county needed to give retirement benefits to three parking deck attendants who make an average of $9.10 an hour, based on an average 31-hour work week.

"What's so specialized about a parking deck attendant?" Potts asked. "That doesn't appear that that needs a degree or anything."

Potts praised Tysinger for redefining 153 jobs as part-time positions to help save the county money, but he suggested the county just hire a temporary worker to fill that position and said more essential positions should be the ones that are eligible for retirement benefits.

Hyatt said the parking deck attendants are trained and do have more responsibility than perceived. He said that he and the department heads decided that all of the 22 part-time positions with benefits were justified to work over 1,000 hours a year.

Tysinger said there is money in the budget for the retirement benefits this year, thanks to unused money in the Davidson County Sheriff's Office budget and larger-than-expected revenues from the parking deck.

In other news, commissioners:

Heard a presentation from Amber McGhinnis, of Martin Starnes & Associates, C.P.A.'s P.A., on the county's 2008 audited financial statements. McGhinnis said her firm found no unquestioned costs or items of major concern among the county's finances.

Revenues were up more than $12 million in 2008, compared to 2007, due mostly to a tax revaluation of county properties. The county was able to increase its fund balance above the previous two years. The county also remained below the state average and the average for its population group - counties over 100,000 in population - for the amount of taxes collected and debt incurred, according to the latest statistics for the year 2007.

Most of the county's expenditures were spent on human services, 30 percent, followed by education, 28 percent, other expenditures, 22 percent, and public safety, 20 percent. The county also remained about 50 percent below the state average and average for counties with more than 100,000 people for the amount spent on county operations per resident.

Purchased a high-density horizontal baler for the county recycling department. The machine helps package recyclable materials which are then sold for profit. County recycling coordinator Steve Swaim said the county received a little more than $490,000 last fiscal year from recyclable materials.

Approved the purchase of 10 heart monitors combined with defibrillators devices to be used by the county's Emergency Medical Services department. Doug Lowe, director of that department, said the machines were necessary to meet new guidelines set by the state. The new machines should arrive in the county next month and be in service by Jan. 30, Lowe said. High Point Regional Hospital is providing a grant of more than $31,000 to helps with costs.

Approved the purchase of a new scale house and scale set for the county landfill, a bid for a digital orthophotography project for the county Geographical Information Systems office and approximately $5,000 worth of repairs at the Old Davidson County Court House to fix the building's roof and gutters.

Rescheduled two rezoning public hearings regarding property in Tyro and Cotton Grove townships to the Jan. 5 meeting.

Amended an agreement between the county and the City of Lexington to provide wastewater collection and treatment to the sewer service being built to Churchland Elementary school.

Re-appointed Dr. Mark Hamrick to the county board of health. Appointed new Commissioner Cathy Dunn to the board positions previously held by Larry Allen.

Met in closed session to discuss four economic development projects, one real estate issue and one attorney-client matter. The board took no action.

This was the board's last meeting of the year. The commissioners next meet in January.

Seth Stratton can be reached at 249-3981, ext. 226 or seth.stratton@the-dispatch.com.

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