Archive for Tuesday, July 27, 2010

County commission, register of deeds debate use of tech fund

July 27, 2010

A frustrated Leavenworth County commissioner challenged the register of deeds to be a team player before approving her submitted 2011 budget for publication.

The budget published this week in The Tonganoxie Mirror reflects Leavenworth County Register of Deeds Stacy Driscoll’s 2011 budget request. It will fund her office with $196,000 from the property tax supported general fund and another $136,144 from the technology fund, built with a $2 documentation fee charged in the deeds office.

But that is not the budget at least two commissioners wanted. They favored County Administrator Heather Morgan’s proposal for the office, which would have provided $30,000 less from the property tax supported general fund and paid more of the office’s salaries from the tech fund.

Driscoll balked at the proposal, instead choosing to use more of the tech fund for an ongoing project in her office of making digital copies of records dating from before the introduction of computers in 1995.

Driscoll also requested the deeds office’s 2010 budget be amended to reflect $60,000 spent this year on the project.

Commissioner J.C. Tellefeson noted a trend in the deeds office budget the past three years, which grew 18 percent from 2009 to 2010 and will increase another 3 percent in 2011. That happened at a time other county departments and offices were cutting back, he said.

Tellefson called the growth in spending from the deeds office technology fund a “waste,” saying he didn’t know how the money was being spent.

Although Driscoll wasn’t in the room to respond to those remarks, she earlier defended the use of the technology fund to update records.

“That’s what the money is there for — to make enhancements in my office to make it more accessible,” she said. “Why do you have a problem with that.”

Driscoll also noted her 2011 general fund budget was 8 percent smaller than 2010.

County Counselor David Van Parys told commissioners the register of deeds had spending authority over the fund. The role for the county commission was to ensure any use of the fund was accounted for in annual or amended budget, he said.

Should more than $50,000 remain in the fund at the end of the year, the county commission could choose to use it to pay for technology upgrades in other county departments, Van Parys said.

That has been done in Leavenworth County in the past, and Driscoll has made the fund available to pay for upgrades in other county departments.

Tellefson and Commissioner John Flower said the would like to see that past spirit of cooperation in the current budget cycle. The increased salary use of the technology fund could easily be justified, Tellefson said.

The county sought a Kansas attorney general’s opinion, returned earlier this month, about the use of the tech fund for salaries. The opinion states it was a legitimate use as long as the person was involved in electronic record keeping.

Driscoll, however, questioned the legitimacy of the county administrator’s proposal.

“That’s setting a precedent, and I’m not going to be the one to do it,” she said.

With state statute giving Driscoll sole authority over the technology fund, the two commissioners approved Driscoll’s request.

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