Just ahead of Thanksgiving and the upcoming budget season, the Elbert County commissioners used a temporary calm to address some housekeeping items during their regularly scheduled session on Nov. 25.
The commissioners unanimously approved three …
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The commissioners unanimously approved three policies as part of an ongoing effort to improve the county's business practices, as recommended by auditors during the 2012 and 2013 financial audits. The policies spelled out specifics for addressing some standard and some not-so-standard issues within the day-to-day operations of the county relating to vehicle use, records retention and indigent decedents.
Beginning in 2015, the county will issue W-2 forms to county employees and elected officials who use county vehicles to commute to and from work. County vehicles are primarily used for official business; however, the use of a county vehicle for commuting is part of the overall compensation package for some officials, commissioners and employees, all of whom are required to report the commuting value of those vehicles on their state and federal income taxes.
“In accordance with IRS guidelines, this (new policy) reflects that we will have a W-2 reflecting that compensation,” Elbert County Attorney Wade Gateley explained. “The IRS provides amounts, because it (the use of the vehicle) is not a private lease.”
Personnel such as sheriff's-office employees and road and bridge employees driving a marked vehicle or driving vehicles needed for their functions as a county employee are exempt from reporting their use as income.
According to Gateley, the new policy also allows the county to track its vehicles with GPS, and just as with the county's computer networks, employees should have no expectation of privacy while using county vehicles.
The commissioners also approved a records retention policy. The policy, aimed at eliminating excessive document storage and mitigating the future loss of critical records, requires each department to complete a records inventory by March 30, 2015, and prepare a record retention schedule by June 30.
The completed schedules will then be submitted to the state archivist office and the attorney general for final approval. Once approved, the county can begin destroying records that are no longer necessary to keep.
“Some records have to be retained forever,” Gateley said. “A couple of examples of that are, the planning department records need to be retained because zoning changes need to be tracked. Another example is the board of county commissioner minutes.”
Gateley told commissioners that several offices have already completed record inventories.
The final housekeeping policy addressed the infrequent but recurring issue of indigent decedents. Twice in the past three years, the county has been called upon to make final arrangements for an individual who has died without prior arrangements.
The policy puts in place specific procedures and guidelines for the county coroner to handle the burial and investigate possible reimbursement sources for them.
Gateley told commissioners that the county might be eligible for partial reimbursement of the approximate $2,500 required for burials, provided the decedent was receiving or had applied for public assistance prior to his or her death.
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