Incoming Board of Commission Chairman Rusty Blackston raised a few questions to the current board during a county budget hearing on Wednesday afternoon concerning two departments which he noticed had salary increases in 2012. Blackston stated the Tax Commissioners office and the Clerk of Superior Courts office together had increased several employees’ salaries over the 5 percent that was given to all full time Upson County employees last year.
“I am not trying to point fingers to anyone or accuse anyone, but there is documentation stating this occurred on January 17, 2012 and I (as a member of the board at that time) was not aware,” said Blackston, who was the District 3 County Commissioner before resigning this summer to run for Commission Chairman.
Blackston noted Commissioner Frank Spraggins (who was absent due to recovering from knee surgery) did not know about the issue either and that the increases ranged from $2,000 to $5,000 in the aforementioned departments and that they were signed off by the chairman. Commissioner Steve Hudson stated that he knew nothing of the matter until he was contacted by a citizen in reference to it.
However, according to current Commission Chairman Maurice Raines, who was not present for the budget hearing because of a scheduling conflict, nothing sneaky has been done. Raines told The Times later that the increases were part of merit raises for employees who went above and beyond the call of duty; an issue which he addressed at last year’s County Christmas Luncheon. He continued saying he and the board talked about how it was unfair to give everyone the same raise when some employees do more than their fair share, therefore merit raises were to be allowed in 2012.
Raines noted he was sent letters from both department heads of those offices stating why they wanted to give out the raises and that both departments used money from within their budgets to do so without going over. Therefore, he agreed and signed off on the documents.
Also during the hearing, Prentice Robinson expressed his displeasure to the board about the 2013 budget. Mr. Robinson feels the budget should be cut in efforts to prepare for hard times in the future. He noted that his displeasure is not just with Upson County government, but also the school system and City of Thomaston, who he feels could be cutting back more.
The 2013 budget for Upson County totals $13,815,815 compared to 2012 of $13,594, 500. Raines also stated the reason the budget for 2013 is slightly higher than the 2012 budget is due to the state mandated salary increases for constitutional officers and the 2.5 percent raise the board decided to give all full time county employees this year. The Board of Commissioners will have a called meeting next week to consider adoption of the 2013 budget.