|Judy Berkstresser addresses commissioners
Stone County Commissioners have approved an operating budget of close to $7 million dollars for 2014.
In the budget, commissioner's approved a .25 an hour raise for hourly workers in Stone County government. The last time county workers received a raise was two years ago.
There were just a few minor adjustments made to the proposed budget during two days of budget meeting last week, but there were lots of fireworks between County Clerk Judy Berkstresser and Presiding Commissioner Dennis Wood.
Wood proposed that the county establish a "reserve fund" from monies to be taken from an already established emergency fund. Wood proposed that $300,000 of the $1.3 million emergency fund be "reappropriated" into a reserve fund. Commissioners approved that proposal.
Wood said that if the fund had been implement a few years ago the county would have been able to pay cash for the old bank building on the square that cost about $65,000. "If we had had it, we would have been able to save taxpayer's about $2,500 in interest last year."
Berkstresser says she was advised by someone in the auditor's office that moving or transferring money out of the fund could not be done. County Attorney Bill McCullah says he was advised from someone in the same office that it was perfectly legal.
Both agreed that a lawsuit from one Stone County resident demanding that the money be put back in the emergency fund would probably result in the money having to be put back.
During the heated meeting, Berkstresser accused the commission of violating the Sunshine Law after Wood said he and the other two commissioners discussed the establishment of the new fund and voting in favor of implementing it without that discussion being held in the presence of someone to take official minutes.
Wood vehemently denied making the statement in Thursday's budget meeting.
The Crane Chronicle made a Sunshine Request for an official copy of the minutes and was informed there were none.