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Commission discusses requests, funding during Budget Work Session

KINGWOOD — The Preston County Commission held its FY 2024-25 Budget Work Session Monday, with representatives from all departments except the magistrates, and Judge Stephen Shaffer.

Two of the most common requests among office holders were for new computers and employee hires. Commissioners told office holders they would go over requests for employee hires after looking over other requests.

Sheriff Paul Pritt requested $119,000 from the county budget for pay increases for current deputies and asked that starting deputy salaries be raised to $47,000. In his written request he said, “historically with the starting pay that we currently have we have not had any applicants to hire. Those applicants that have applied can not pass the physical agility test and/or the written test required or background tests.”
He also requested $14,000 to replace a K9 officer that will be retiring due to age and ability. The $14,000 includes the replacement K9 and the cost of training.

Pritt requested the utility officers starting salary be set at $40,000, and two additional court security persons be hired to handle the inmates transported for court hearings, plus one additional person for bailiff duties. With the addition of the second circuit judge, additional personnel are going to be needed, according to his request.

Among his requests for the tax office was a 20% salary raise for the four tax office employees; hiring a CPA for sheriff’s settlements at a cost of $25,000; pending a review of the system, a software system tax program at a cost of $175,000, and six new computers for the tax office.

Circuit Clerk Lisa Leishman requested a $1,000 raise for each of her five employees, and $28,257.22 to hire a new deputy circuit clerk. In her request, Leishman said starting in January, there will be a new circuit judge, which will make four judges her staff works with processing their cases. She said she is currently down one employee, who is in the courtroom with Judge Stephen Shaffer and has to have the deputies in order to process caseloads.

County Clerk Linda Huggins requested a 3% pay raise across the board for all of her personnel. She also requested $30,000 to hire an additional employee. Huggins said she needs assistance to keep up with the daily workload. In her request, she said she has to work an average of 75 hours a week to keep up with office duties. Huggins said she cannot review, oversee the work in her office when she is buried in regular office duties.

Huggins also requested 12 new desktop computers for her staff at an estimated cost off $17,228.16.

Prosecuting Attorney Jay Shay requested $55,000 in additional funding to hire an assistant prosecuting attorney and a legal assistant. In his request Shay said his office anticipates having scheduling conflicts that can only be resolved by additional staff due to the new circuit judge who takes office in January. He said the $55,000 is six months salary as the employees will not be needed until the beginning of the 2025 calendar year. Shay also requested a 3% cost of living raise across the board for his staff.

He requested $10,000 to provide new computers for his staff saying most of the machines in the office were purchased in 2017 and are “showing their age.”

Duane Hamilton, director of E911 requested a $1,250 annual increase in salary for all full-time employees and irregular full-time employees to include the supervisor, 10 full time dispatchers, the assistant 911 director, the addressing coordinator, and the administrative assistant. He also requested a $625 annual salary increase for three part-time dispatchers. According to his request the salary increase would help offset health insurance increases and cost of living increases.

Hamilton also requested $12,000, to remove the old generator building and generator from the Gregg’s Knob Tower site. It would also require some removal of trees that are encroaching on the site.

Hamilton said the building on the site is rusting, is in poor condition and has a fuel tank under it for the generator. He said eventually the tank may rupture and cause fuel spill.

Another request, this one for $69,000, will go to upgrade 911 services to Next Gen 911 capability standards. In his request Hamilton said several counties have already implemented Next Gen Services, enabling them to increase redundancy and functionality.

Commission President Don Smith said the county budget must be approved by March 26.