The Ottumwa Courier

October 23, 2013

Full-time position saved in Van Buren Co. Treasurer's Office

By RUSTY EBERT
Courier correspondent

---- — KEOSAUQUA — On a 3-0 vote, the Van Buren County Board of Supervisors voted to keep a full-time position in the treasurer’s office during their regular meeting Monday.

The board authorized the treasurer to advertise for a full-time employee to fill a current vacancy in the office with a beginning salary of $24,352, which is 60 percent of the treasurer’s salary.

The supervisors had considered making it a part-time position and shutting down the driver’s license department to just three days per week.

County treasurer Tanya McQuoid was present for a discussion of staffing needs of the county treasurer’s office.

“The salary is not the biggest issue,” said Mark Meek, speaking to McQuoid, “it’s the benefits. We’re not trying to abuse you, but our responsibility is to cut the budget wherever possible.”

Meek initially recommended cutting the driver’s license department, but Supervisor Bob Waugh said other counties of similar size have three full-time workers besides the treasurer. He said he would favor keeping the driver’s license department at five days or not having it at all.

“Think of your customer,” McQuoid told supervisors.

Supervisor Ted Nixon had asked about dropping the beginning salary to 55 percent of the treasurer’s salary, which would put the wage at $11 per hour, but Supervisor Bob Waugh said he was opposed.

“I’m sick of cutting the salary of the little guy who can’t make a living and keep raising the big guy’s salary. That’s the point of my complaint to the compensation board. We should drop having percentage raises and go to just an across-the-board dollar amount,” he said.

McQuoid said the federal poverty level is $22,000 and “this would be $23,000 before taxes.”

McQuoid said there were 22 applicants with nine planning to be interviewed. “A lot of them wanted (a higher per hour rate), some would be happy to have a job. I don’t know the effect of reducing the starting salary to 55 percent.”

Others started out at 60 percent, she said.

Supervisors discussed having a driver’s license center open five days a week, cutting it to three days or eliminating it and have people drive out of county.

Jon Finney said, “in a year from now you’ll find out how many people go online to get their driver’s licenses.”

McQuoid said only a certain number would be able to qualify to get their licenses online and still they would have to go to a center every other time.

Meek said, “Having the driver’s license center open is a service to the county.”

McQuoid responded, “And they appreciate it.”

“But my point is, I hate to hire someone and come back in a year and drop them to half-time or eliminate the position. Could you get by with just having a part-time person and closing the driver’s license office to three days a week?” Meek asked.

“The troubling point is with just two full-time workers, you have vacations and sick leave with those two and the part-time. You would be closing at noon, because it’s just not safe to have just one person there. We’ve had an irate customer try to climb over the counter. Our office, we’re taking their money, it doesn’t lend itself to making people happy.”

Waugh said, “My concern is the quality of a part-time person.”

“We’ve hired some pretty good part-timers,” Meek replied.

Finney said, “You would be more likely to have turnover and you have a lot of training invested in that person.”

When asked how long it takes to train an employee on driver’s licenses, McQuoid said training is an ongoing matter and never really stops, so it was hard to give a firm answer.

She also said, “My office is efficient. We are all cross-trained, not everyone can say that.”

Meek said, “The question is, is the service worth the cost to provide it? It’s not like the service isn’t available somewhere else, but it would be more inconvenient if we didn’t offer it. We’re a county of declining population. I think the time is coming where we have to say that’s it.”

“I think you either eliminate the position and the service or hire a full-time person,” Waugh said.

“I agree with Bob, at this time, I think I would want to keep it full time,” Nixon said.