Morton County’s auditor and treasurer positions will not be combined, and the recorder will remain an elected position, following a public hearing by the county commission last week.
According to Morton County Commission Chairman Cody Schulz, the merging of the two positions would have benefited the county by increasing efficiencies. In addition, several other North Dakota counties are functioning well with a joint auditor-treasurer position, he said.
A handful of citizens and county employees stood before the board Dec. 26 and voiced their opposition to the changes.
“I want two public officials taking a look at the taxpayer dollars in this county and, when you merge them, you’re only going to have one set of eyes. For me, I believe the check and balance is very important,” said DeNae Kautzmann, of Mandan.
“As far as making the county recorder an appointed official, I would like it to remain elected. I want to be able to exercise my voice at the polls,” she said.
“I want my voice heard on Election Day,” said Mike Hatzenbuhler, of Mandan. “I want to be able to say who gets into these offices.”
County Treasurer Vicki Lippert’s biggest concern with the auditor-treasurer position is understaffing for a large workload.
“I’m concerned because it took four of us today, and we are not done with our mail. I did not get a lunch break, I did not get a coffee break … I’m really concerned where we are going to be getting all this help,” she said.
By a vote of 4-1, the commission denied the merging of the auditor and treasurer positions, and the redesignation of the county recorder from elected to appointed. Schulz voted in favor of the changes.
“This is a long-term decision. I think we have to take into consideration decades, not just the right now,” he said.
Commissioner Bruce Strinden said he didn’t believe the auditor-treasurer position would provide efficiencies or cost savings to the county.
“It’s my belief that we’re going to have to add at least another half-time person,” he said. “And if we’re going to give Dawn (Rhone, county auditor) all these extra responsibilities, I wouldn’t feel very good about doing it without giving her a substantial increase in pay.
“I’m not sure there is an economy there and I’m not sure, at this point in my mind, that there’s an efficiency there, either,” he said.