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 Council Approves Budget Cuts

June 4, 2008 - The Knightstown Council voted last week to make the town court judge's daughter the interim clerk of court and approved cuts to the town's 2008 budget.

Acting on a recommendation from Knightstown Town Court Judge Hayden Butler, the council approved the promotion of Butler's daughter, Lisa Cox, to interim clerk of court and department head. The council's vote came during a special meeting on May 29.

As the interim clerk of court, Cox will be taking the place of Earlene Carter, who missed nearly a year of work after an accident in March 2007 and is now off work recovering from surgery. Butler told the council at last week's meeting that he expected Carter to officially resign her position by June 5.

Butler urged the council to increase Cox's pay to be equal to the $34,000 yearly salary Carter receives. The council, however, declined to do this.

Council member Terry Guerin proposed that Cox, who was hired in late 2006 and was making $12 an hour as a full-time deputy clerk, be paid what she would earn under a $30,000 yearly salary (a $2.42 an hour raise). He said this would allow room for professional growth, and Council President Valerie Trump added that Carter's pay had been higher because it took into account her 12 years of experience.

Guerin reminded Butler that the town court was about $20,000 over its budget last year, and Trump noted that the court's payroll is currently over budget this year as well. Butler attributed being over budget to the fact that Cox has been working overtime to cover for Carter, saying that the town had basically been paying two people to do one job.

The council voted 4-1 to approve Cox's appointment at the $30,000 yearly salary. Council member Steve Nelson, who said he favored allowing Butler and other department heads to set the pay for their employees, cast the lone dissenting vote.

The court declined to approve a second personnel request from Butler, who wanted to move one of the court's three part-time deputy clerks, Terry Forshey, to the full-time position Cox had held. While Butler said he was not seeking any increase in Forshey's $9.55 hourly rate, the council opted not to change her part-time status at this time.

In other business, the council approved, on Clerk-Treasurer Judy Haines' recommendation, an estimated 12 percent in proposed cuts to the town's 2008 budget. In conjunction with the cuts, Trump announced that, until further notice, town employees paid from the General Fund will not be working overtime.

"Obviously, with the electric department, with the utilities, Mother Nature kind of makes a different decision and we'll have to address that," Trump said. "But, as far as the police department, the dispatch, the court - there will be no overtime. The payroll budgets, once this budget is passed, will stand, and there will be no overtime."

Trump said the council is confident that department heads will be able to help the town achieve needed budget cuts. "We have a lot of trust and faith in you," she said, "and we're just asking you to address this for us."

"The last thing we want to do is to lose employees," Guerin said. "And the second to last thing, I guess, would be to add to the financial burden on our citizens. … I don't want to see us lose any employees, and I certainly don't want to go back to the residents of Knightstown and ask them for more money."

The town council is scheduled to hold a special meeting Monday, June 16, at 6 p.m. The meeting is open to the public and will be held in the council's chambers at Town Hall, 26 S. Washington St.


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