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Supervisors to give $100K raises

NATCHEZ — The Adams County supervisors agreed Wednesday to give approximately $100,000 in raises to county employees in various departments.

The decision came after Adams County Administrator Joe Murray suggested at a specially called meeting the board review raise requests from county judges for their court reporters.

A recent state law that went into effect July 1 authorizes county supervisors to review the salaries of court reporters. The law allows for the first raise for court reporters in 12 years.

The supervisors decided to adopt a pay raise plan for the court reporters as outlined by the law. The raises will not be official until the board adopts the county’s budget for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

The salary of a court reporter with less than five years of experience would increase from $40,500 to $50,500 per year. Court reporters with more than 10 years of experience would see their salary increase from $46,000 to $66,000.

Adams County’s contribution to the court reporters’ raises will total approximately $23,000, Murray said.

Funding for court reporters’ salaries is provided by the county’s they serve based on service to those counties, meaning Adams splits the costs with other counties. Adams County will likely bear most of the costs of raises, since court reporters are utilized more in Adams than in other counties, Murray said.

It is also up to the discretion of the other counties on whether they want to provide raises.

Two circuit court reporters serve Adams, Amite, Franklin and Wilkinson counties. Three chancery court reporters serve Adams, Claiborne, Jefferson and Wilkinson counties. One court reporter serves county court.

The money to cover the raises will come from extra funding the county will have next fiscal year, in part because of Murray’s recent discovery that approximately $430,000 in county funds was mistakenly diverted into the Natchez-Adams County School District.

That money was returned to the county and means the county can afford raises, Murray assured supervisors. Murray said he had already factored in raises to preliminary budget estimates.

“Don’t worry about the money for the raises,” he said. “(The county) has the money for the raises, if you want to give them.”

Supervisor Angela Hutchins said she believes the court reporters deserve a raise because they have not had one in many years.

“And they cannot do outside work anymore like depositions,” Hutchins said. “We can give the raises now since we have the money and re-evaluate it again next year.”

The law allows for a three-year raise plan, but the supervisors are not required to give raises every year if the county does not wish to do so.

Supervisor David Carter said in addition to approving raises for court reporters, he would like to see raises issued for local employees.

The board agreed on raises for various county employees, the bulk of which would total approximately $63,000 for the road department.

Supervisor Mike Lazarus also proposed a raise for Murray, citing his discovery of the additional funds for next year is making the other raises possible. The supervisors decided to take up the matter of a raise for Murray at a later date.

In other news from the meeting:

-The supervisors voted Wednesday to uphold Merit Health Natchez’s property tax assessment.

Tax Assessor Reynolds Atkins appeared before the board to report an additional assessment had slightly decreased to approximately $23 million from his original approximately $24 million assessment.

Merit Health Natchez representatives previously contested the assessment citing costs and renovations associated with purchasing the hospital should lower the assessment to approximately $7 million.

The board also received clarification that software for the hospital was not included in the hospital’s taxable equipment assessment, per standards of the Department of Revenue, but licenses for the software were.

The county denied the hospital’s appeal and any further appeal would be heard in court.

Hospital representatives were not present at Wednesday’s meeting.

-The board met in executive session for approximately an hour to discuss personnel issues related to the performance of a county employee.