With closing of Assessor’s Office, her office will take on new duties

Last updated: May 30. 2014 11:18PM - 946 Views
By - aworrell@civitasmedia.com

Fran McPherson
Fran McPherson
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Commissioner of Revenue Fran McPherson is asking the Carroll County Board of Supervisors for a 12 percent salary increase for her employees now that the county has combined the Assessor’s Office with the Commissioner of the Revenue’s office.

After hearing McPherson’s request on May 12, supervisors elected to table the request until a later date since the combination of offices won’t take effect until July 1. In a tight budget crunch this year, supervisors said they combined the offices in an effort to balance the county budget without raising taxes for Fiscal Year 2014-2015.

A Constitutional Office dictated by the Constitution of Virginia, McPherson told the board her office operates according to the Code of Virginia. She said she has fulfilled all of her duties as required by law since being elected in 2012, and will continue to do so.

Prior to her election, McPherson said there were discussions on changing the working order of the County Assessor’s Office. In 1980, the Virginia Department of Taxation changed real estate assessments to 100% fair market value. The Assessor’s office was established in 1982 by County Ordinance to effectively maintain the valuation of new construction and property splits between reassessments and to maintain the property identification maps. This change was initialized and requested by the Commissioner of the Revenue at the time due to the increase in workload and the skill set needed to accomplish fair and equitable assessments.

“The Assessor’s office has functioned in this capacity for the past 32 years efficiently,” McPherson told the board. “The Code of Virginia will not allow me as a Commissioner to fulfill all these duties.”

With the understanding that the board wanted the two offices merged, McPherson said she worked to determine the best way to cooperate with the decision and make it financially beneficial for the county’s citizens. Her research of the merger found that her current staff would be assuming numerous new duties, but the county could realize a savings, she said, even if a request for supplements for the employees were to be granted.

“I also would like to point out that the current staff of three well-trained employees will only be replaced with two employees, with only one of those employees being trained in the Real Estate department,” McPherson said. “I felt that the Commissioner of Revenue employees’ salaries should be adjusted accordingly to accommodate the new work load. Each employee will have a new job description and added duties to which I feel they should be supplemented since the additional job duties were not required of them at the time they were hired. There would be a huge disparity between their compensation based upon their individual skill sets required to perform their current responsibilities combined with additional duties and responsibilities from the merge of the two offices. When an employee’s job description is changed and additional responsibilities are required, it is common for the employee’s salary to be adjusted to reflect these new duties. This has been a practice with the Board of Supervisors in the past.”

McPherson said it should be understood that all services provided by the Assessor’s Office are not required by State Code to be provided by the Commissioner of the Revenue.

“I have and will continue to work with you on accomplishing what is best for the citizens of our county,” McPherson said. “I have cooperated with administration in working towards the betterment of our county. I have humbly served the citizens of Carroll County in my position as Commissioner of the Revenue and will continue to do so.”

McPherson said she asked for a written agreement between the county and her office to simply clarify in writing the expectations of her office. She said she was advised by numerous Commissioners across the state that such an agreement is needed to protect all parties involved.

“In light of the statement made to me in an email, stating that in reality the board can eliminate the County Appraiser position and let the duties fall to me, after the discussions of an appraiser being hired and compensated by the county and to which the compensation board will not fund, I tend to agree that such an agreement between the county and myself will be needed to proceed with the merge,” McPherson told the board. “In response to the statement of my staff absorbing the work load of half of a position, I have to disagree. With the retirement of the current assessor and the retirement of an efficient office assistant, I will be gaining only one person trained in all aspects of the real estate department. The appraiser, to which was agreed upon to hire, will need training on the daily operations of the Real Estate department. In essence, I will be gaining only one trained employee instead of the three that are currently in the real estate department.”

Per the Virginia Compensation Board, McPherson said her office is currently understaffed by 4.59 people. She said she will not gain another full-time Compensation Board approved position until funds become available. She said she disagrees with a chart of contributions from Commissioners of the Revenue in surrounding counties she was recently sent.

McPherson said she has not opposed the combination of the two offices, but she is very disappointed her staff won’t be compensated for the additional workload.

“I am disappointed that the County administration and I could not come to an amicable agreement in this matter, but I feel my employees deserve what I have requested and I am certain that given the circumstances, the additional workload, the requirements and duties, you as leaders would do the same for your employees,” McPherson said. “I feel the citizens of Carroll County would be better served by continuing the operation of the Assessor’s office under the direction of the Board of Supervisors.”

McPherson said she currently has four full-time employees in her office, the same amount she had in 1982. Supervisor Sam Dickson asked McPherson if she wasn’t opposed to the move, but rather would have an increase for the extra duties her employees will perform.

“I showed my disappointment over what was not granted to me. I have a hardworking bunch of employees and they are great, but to take on extra duties I think they should be compensated in some form,” McPherson said. “They haven’t had to deal with real estate duties since they have been hired.”

McPherson said the 12 percent salary increase she is asking for would bring her employees in line with other positions in the county. She is not asking for an increase for the two employees coming from the Assessor’s office or for herself, McPherson said. Chairman David Hutchins asked if McPherson had received any other increases since she took office. She replied she received one when she became Commissioner, but it was through the Compensation Board.

“I sit here and see two other constitutional officers, too, and I am sure they would say their employees would say they merit that. I am not sure we can do anything without the budget committee going back and looking at everything,” Hutchins said. “The budget we just passed did not include that. It included the merger. If we were to change that then we would have to rework and maybe even re-advertise to some degree what we did.”

Dickson asked if there was any amount that could be adjusted to a budget year. County Attorney Jim Cornwell replied you could do an adjustment if it fell within one percent of the total budget.

“Could we table this request and look at it because it won’t go into effect until July anyway? I would make that motion,” Dickson said. “Nothing against you guys, I know you work hard, I just think we need to look at it a little while.”

Supervisor Joshua Hendrick seconded the motion, which passed unanimously.

“The objective is to look at it and see if there is an agreement that can be reached,” Hutchins said.

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