We have no choice but to question Jefferson County Tax Collector Tony Washington’s decision to hire an additional staff member for his office during a budget crisis.
Don’t get us wrong, we think Mr. Washington is a great guy with the best of intentions. But now isn’t the time to bring more personnel on, especially when Jefferson County Judge Gerald Robinson is asking all of the elected officials to cut staff to help save money.
During a meeting of the Quorum Court committees recently, Washington said he wanted to reduce the salaries of two employees by $1,000 each and give the $2,000 generated to an employee he had hired to serve as chief deputy.
“When I won the position in May, I started looking for a person (with experience),” Washington said. “We (the office) lost a lot of experience, and I asked a young lady from Columbia County to come here, and she accepted.”
Washington said that with the retirement of former Tax Collector Stephanie Stanton and her chief deputy, the office lost 71 years of experience.
Justice of the Peace Dr. Herman Ginger said he saw the request as “bad business,” noting that “if a person retires, you do not hire into that office. Second, if you take money away from slots and give it to another person, you can’t give it back, and that destroys morale.”
Additionally, Washington touted his ability to lead the office during his campaign, so why then would there be a need to hire someone to help do the job? It’s supposed to be the job of the tax collector to oversee and run the operations of the office, after all.
Under the proposal, the salary of one deputy would be cut from $41,000 to $40,000, and the second would be cut from $38,000 to $37,000. The salary for Washington’s new chief deputy would increase from $34,000 to $36,000.
Justice of the Peace Alfred Carroll, who was off the Quorum Court for several years before winning a seat back, said: “We’re doing exactly what we said we were not going to do.”
Carroll cast the only no vote during the committee meeting. The full Quorum Court was expected to vote on Washington’s request on Monday night.
Sure, one could make the case that there is a need for a trusted second in command who has a seasoned career working with taxes. We are sure each office in county or city government could provide a wish list of things that would be nice but simply aren’t doable financially.
Money is tight and getting tighter for Jefferson County. Population losses have equaled tax losses over the past decade.
The county government has continued to operate as if tax money was pouring in at higher rates each year. That’s not the case. It’s time for serious belt-tightening inside the Jefferson County Courthouse.
And it’s up to elected officials, who are the department heads, to make it happen.