An agreement between Union County commissioners and county Auditor Mary Snider means that taxing agencies will soon see a refund and the auditor's office will remain open five days a week.

An agreement between Union County commissioners and county Auditor Mary Snider means that taxing agencies will soon see a refund and the auditor's office will remain open five days a week.

Two weeks ago, Snider thought she would have to close her office every Monday until the financial situation in the county improves. But that changed late last week.

The commissioners, who have stressed since November that officeholders must cut their budgets, told Snider she needed to cut 2 percent from what was expended last year, or $9,801. She said she spent $653,415.76 from the general fund last year, which included the data processing board. Another $508,763.28 was expended from the real estate assessment fund.

"This is when you look at duties of the auditor," she said. "The rule of thumb is one-third is appraisal and two-thirds should be general fund responsibilities."

Initially the commissioners approved a pay raise for the county employees, Snider said, amounting to 75 cents an hour for her staff.

"I thought they OK'd raises for everybody," Snider said, explaining it was effective in January. "I did a salary study and they were $1.71 under payment to my employees. That's huge."

Snider said she did not want to give the employees a raise and then take it back, so she tried to find a way to cut it from her budget.

"There was a $60,000 hole in the budget, let alone what you need to go through the year and 2 percent off of last year," she said.

The estimated $60,000, described by Snider as a moving target, was created when she had personnel changes.

Two employees left the job in December and another employee is out on maternity leave.

Snider moved a person from real estate assessment to handling issues dealing with the general fund. "She knows how to do both jobs, but she is not at the same salary level," Snider said.

Another individual was hired in payroll, but he has a college education so he started at a higher pay.

"There is no way I can do less in that department," she said.

With all of the changes taking place in her department, Snider said her office collected more real estate assessment funds than was necessary.

A real estate assessment fund is a fee, or percentage, deducted from each taxing authority for collecting revenues.

Every six years businesses and residents are inspected for an app-raisal and every third year, or triennial, a global appraisal is conducted.

Historically, Snider said, appraisals increase, but with sales bottoming out this year that will not necessarily be the case. "We anticipate a reduction in the future expenses of the 2010 triennial update of all parcels," she said.

With the tangible personal property tax being eliminated, she said, there are replacement fees in the real estate assessment funds.

"We collected way too much," Snider said of the estimated $787,155.65. "I should not have collected February and August fees."

By the time she caught the error, she said, it was too late to stop the settlements. She planned to make the adjustments by not collecting during the next August and February, but the commissioners recommended that it be returned to the taxing agencies.

"It is a whole lot easier not to collect than to pay back," she said.

Snider said she, Prosecutor Dave Phillips and commissioners Gary Lee and Charles Hall met on March 19 to discuss the issue.

"We came up with the solution," she said. "I had to do a tax settlement of the real estate assessment fees and they were placed in a special fund."

The money will be sent back to every taxing entity in the county, which ranges from the 911 centers and developmental disabilities to the townships and schools.

The smallest portion will go to a shared service with Delaware County as its library receives 22 cents, while the schools receive the largest portion of $518,939.20 and joint vocational schools receive $25,603.83.

The commissioners will receive $48,300.39, which will be placed in the general budget, meeting their appropriation concerns.

The additional dollars, according to a press release jointly released by Snider and the commissioners on March 20, along with an agreed realignment of expenses paid by the real estate assessment fund will keep the auditor's office open five days a week as it has been.