Eastern Plains Council of Governments approves Friday furloughs

Finances took center stage Wednesday at the Eastern Plains Council of Governments board of directors meeting, as the board approved of a shortened work week for employees and discussed the need to raise the cost of membership dues.

Odessa Hamilton, EPCOG finance manager, said EPCOG employees will no longer be working on Fridays and will have salaries adjusted to 32 hours per week. It hasn't been determined as to when the will Friday furlough will end.

EPCOG is a voluntary association of county and municipal governments from seven counties that assists in planning and development. There are 24 members of EPCOG that pay about $28,700 in membership dues annually, according to Sandy Chancey, executive director of EPCOG. Clovis pays the most at $7,502.

According to Hamilton, 81 percent of EPCOG's Economical Development Administration budget has been spent this fiscal year. With EPCOG's fiscal year ending on June 30, the $15,444 left in their EDA budget will not be enough to finance the department.

Hamilton said EPCOG will save $7,600 through the end of the fiscal year by eliminating Fridays from the work-week.

Chancey said EPCOG was at a critical point where membership dues need to be raised. The membership dues have not been raised in more than 20 years. She said it is common for COG's to re-evaluate membership dues after a Census.

"It's just more expensive to do business these days." Chancey said.

Chancey said EPCOG will not raise the cost of membership until next year because EPCOG's members are in the middle of creating budgets, which are due at the end of the month. Raymond Mondragon, EPCOG's economic and community development planner, suggested they use the time to address any concerns communities have with the upcoming increase in dues.

Chancey said she has no estimate of the increase.

She said travel and insurance are the two main factors in throwing EPCOG's budget off balance. She cited high gas and hotel prices.

Hamilton said the other factor in the EPCOG's budget woes is its error and omissions insurance premium jumped from $9,496 in the 2012-13 billing period to $16,747 in the current billing period. Hamilton said the insurance company raised EPCOG's insurance premium for reasons relating to financial practices, including embezzlement, from 2006 to 2008.

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