Jefferson County approves budget with mill increase and reduced funding for county attorney’s office
Oskaloosa — Jefferson County commissioners on Monday approved their 2009 budget that amounts to an estimated 0.87-mill increase and also cuts funding from the county attorney’s office and other departments.
Commissioners told about 15 residents who attended a budget hearing that they would still work with Caleb Stegall, the incoming county attorney, on financial needs for the office when he comes on board in January.
“I can assure you this county commission would come up with the money for it, as long as he can justify it,” Commissioner David Christy said.
Stegall defeated current Jefferson County Attorney Michael Hayes in the August Republican primary, and Stegall has no opponent in the general election.
Some residents were upset about a proposed $30,000 cut to fund the office for 2009 that included a $10,000 transfer to pay for county counselor services for Hayes’ Oskaloosa law firm. His wife, Jan Hayes, is the county counselor, and Michael Hayes serves as an assistant county counselor in addition to being current county attorney.
Jan Hayes has also worked as an assistant in the county attorney’s office, commissioners said.
But commissioners said it was their decision to make the transfer because they were trying to make the county counselor’s office a more attractive position with more responsibility, including attending all planning and zoning meetings.
“(Michael Hayes) didn’t even know anything about it,” Commissioner Don Edmonds said during the hearing.
Christy said it was his idea and that he tried to transfer $20,000 but Hayes would let him take only $10,000.
Jerry White, who serves on the board of directors for Lakeside Village east of Perry Lake, said voters made a statement in the August election about how they want the county attorney’s office to operate.
“It’s obvious the people said they want more,” White said.
Stegall said after the meeting that he appreciated people speaking up. He also appreciated the commissioners’ comments on working with him in office about his needs. He also said the commissioners’ decision should be final.
“Frankly it’s time to look past that,” Stegall said of issues that residents raised.
One resident said he appreciated the limited mill levy increase.
Others also defended Jan and Michael Hayes. She attended the hearing, but he did not. Christy, the commission chairman, said the law office had donated “thousands of hours” of legal work they have not been paid for.