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Revenue down at county deeds office, jail

August 21, 2014
OSSIPEE — Revenues from Carroll County's Register of Deeds office experienced a $100,000 dip from last year and officials blame sluggish home sales and tight credit.

The county's Legislative Delegation discussed the quarterly revenue report among other topics at its Aug. 11 meeting.

Register of Deeds Ann Aiton reported revenue as of June 30 as approximately $100,000 "off the mark" from prior years. She said the six-month total was the lowest figure she's recorded since she took office in 2007. Sales picked up in July, but Aiton said she has no way of predicting future sales. "We do the best we can. I'm hoping this [sales] will turn around with everyone coming up and enjoying summer with us. We depend a lot on second home sales and not jobs. People decide to retire here or buy a second home here," she said. Overall, total county revenues are at 49 percent for the year, or about at the halfway point.

Rep. and Delegation Vice Chair Mark McConkey asked if sales tended to increase towards the end of the year. Aiton said October historically used to be a busy month, but the process of becoming qualified for a mortgage is shorter and that many potential homebuyers are failing to qualify for loans.

The year to date receipts from the Register of Deeds office for the second quarter of 2014 is $298,411.

Revenues were also down at the Carroll County House of Corrections so far this year. Interim Superintendent Jason Henry said a new innate telephone system should increase revenue next month. Income from inmate work release programs should increase as more inmates are approved for electronic monitoring. Rep. Steve Schmidt said he anticipated that income from holding federal prisoners at the underutilized jail would increase revenue. Henry said the federal paperwork is quite extensive and with the resignation of the former jail superintendent, he hasn't finished the paperwork. Schmidt said he was disappointed, having read how other counties are benefiting by housing federal prisoners.

"This really should be a priority here considering how underutilized the jail is. With the decline in revenue, I would recommend you reconsider your priorities," said Schmidt.

Overtime expenditures were another problematic category, with the overtime budget standing at 88 percent of projection.

Henry said part of the issue is the department has lost 11 or 12 corrections officers this year alone and is having a difficult time retaining staff. Inmate medical issues that require corrections officers to shifts at the hospital, staff time off for sick days, family leave, military service, or for training was also listed as factors.

Delegation Chair Karen Umberger recommended that Henry and county Human Resources Department staff work on retention issues.

"We need to come to grips with why the turnover rate is so high. I think our salaries are maybe a little lower, but pretty commensurate with other places – I don't think salary is all of it," she said. "I would hope that we can hear something back in our next review as to what kinds of things could be put in place to help with the turnover rate," Umberger said. Rep. Karel Crawford said exit interviews should be conducted for departing employees.

Henry said the turnover problem is not new – last year the corrections department lost 17 out of 32 officers.

"There's been high turnover here for a while. The big part is the money – we're the lowest [pay rate] in the state," he said.

Rep. Susan Ticehurst said while she did not disagree with Schmidt, the process is "not quite as easy as it sounds."

"We can't just swap county prisoner slots for federal prisoner slots," she said.

Overall, some line items were above what they should be at the halfway point of the year, with Rep. Glenn Cordelli reporting that the General Fund is at 43 percent. "When you look at the bottom line, it appears we're doing OK but we have to remember if we need to shift money, we need to be contacted and we need to approve it," he said.

The delegation will reconvene on Aug. 25 at 9 a.m. for a supplemental budget hearing, with the regular delegation meeting to follow at 10 a.m.

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