Chancery Clerk cuts deputy clerks’ wages by $4 an hour because of revenue shortfall

Published 4:38 pm Friday, August 18, 2023

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NATCHEZ — Adams County Chancery Court Clerk Brandi Lewis made a preemptive strike against her office’s budget woes by cutting the hourly wage of each of her five deputy clerks by $4 per hour, effective Aug. 15.

Over the last three years, those five clerks had received pay increases of $10 per hour, she said, “and they were well deserved.”

Brandi Lewis, Adams County Chancery Clerk

However, revenue in the Chancery Clerk’s office here is down $63,000 from January through May of this year.

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Several things attribute to the revenue shortfall, Lewis said.

“Unlike the county’s budget, our years is based on a calendar year, not a fiscal year,” she said. “The economy, basically, is what has revenue down. There were a lot of people who got COVID funds and interest rates were low and we had plenty of available houses,” which led to increased revenue for the chancery clerk’s office.

“We are funded through several ways — fees that are collected from the filing of court cases in the Adams County Chancery Court and the filing of land record instruments, primarily,” Lewis said. The chancery court also gets a small amount of its revenue from tax redemptions.

“Interest rates started going up and the quantity of houses available for sale in the county went down,” she said. “At one time, we had 400 or so houses for sale. Now, those are down to 30 something.”

In addition, Lewis said filings in the Chancery Court are “way down.”

Typically by this time in the calendar year, between 400 and 500 court cases have been filed.

“Right now we are in the 200 range,” she said.

Lewis as chancery clerk does not have a set salary. Her compensation, like other county chancery clerks in the state, is set by statute, primary paid based on the number of court filings and attendance. The amount of money she has earned this year is down, as well.

“My income has also been reduced because of the majority of my income is based upon court filings and attendance. There has been occasion recently where I delayed receipt of my paycheck to ensure that my employees payroll was covered first,” Lewis said.

Because of how chancery clerks are paid, “if my expenditures exceed income in my office, I have to pay money back to the county. I wanted to take the opportunity while we had it — however long it lasted — to reward my incredible employees but unfortunately the economy has taken a hit and so have the revenues in our office.

“When I was thankfully able to do the increases, I had a very open and honest conversation, as I always do, with my deputies and told them that I would try to maintain the level of income for them as long as our revenues could sustain it,” she said.