The Boone County Quorum Court's Finance Committee heard Tuesday night from the county coroner, who is requesting salary increases for himself and a deputy.
Last March, Coroner Jake Mattix told the court's Law Enforcement Committee that Boone County is behind many other counties in coroners' pay. He said the staff is called out at all hours and since they are part-time, they have to have regular jobs. The staff has four positions including himself and three deputies, one of which is currently vacant.
Deputies have to meet new requirements and get increased training, he said. JPs did not disagree that the officials deserved a higher rate of pay.
On Tuesday, Mattix proposed that the money budgeted for the vacant position be divided between himself and his chief deputy. There is another deputy on staff who works only when Mattix and the chief deputy are unable to respond to a call or serves on a fill-in basis during the day. He still draws a salary.
Mattix told the JPs he earns $6,200 a year and the chief deputy coroner, Aaron Gutting, earns $4,625 a year.
JP David Thompson said the court would have to pass an ordinance moving funds from part-time salaries to full-time salaries in the coroner's budget. No new funds are involved, he said, it’s just a redistribution.
JP Bobby Woods and Thompson said this has been done in the past in other county offices.
But, JP Fred Woehl said the court adopted policies to prevent that from happening again. JP Jim Milum agreed.
"What we're doing is setting a precedent, here," Woehl said. "I don't want to set a precedent that's going to affect us somewhere else down the line. If someone else says I don't need this person now, so let’s take $5,000 out of this $30,000 and give the other six people a $5,000 raise, which is the same we're doing here...”
"It's not good business," Milum interjected.
If the salary increases were proposed at the time the budget was being developed there wouldn't be a problem, Woehl and Milum maintained.
In a compromise, Woehl said, if the coroner could show documentation that the staff is working more now than it worked last year, due to having one less deputy, "That's over-time. I have no problem with it. But the way this is being presented now it’s giving you a 25% pay raise."
JP Rodney Sullins asked why the second deputy, Gary Medley, is not included in the raise. Mattix said that is a good question, but reasoned that the vast majority of the cases are worked by himself and Gutting.
JP Roy Martin said he has talked to people in the community including physicians and other medical professionals about trying to find help for the coroner’s office, but nobody wants that job. "I don't want that job!"
Thompson asked Mattix to write a complete report on the office's workload as Woehl had suggested. This will let the JPs make a full evaluation of the matter, he said.