Sullivan leaders may vote on pay hike

J. H. Osborne • Mar 18, 2007 at 8:09 AM

BLOUNTVILLE - Sullivan County commissioners could vote Monday to give themselves a pay raise of about $225 per month, effective immediately.

They also will be asked to vote on a "correction" to the Sullivan County Department of Education's budget to, in part, sign off on an additional raise for Director of Schools Glenn Arwood.

Commissioners last got a raise in September 2002, up to the current $275 per month.

Arwood received an 11.4 percent raise - from $91,563 per year to $102,000 per year - when the Sullivan County Board of Education approved his current contract, which began July 1 of last year.

At that time Arwood's car allowance was also increased, from $500 per month to $550 per month.

A resolution up for commission approval Monday seeks to shift money within the Department of Education's current budget to up Arwood's pay another $2,300.

When commissioners asked questions about the money last month, Assistant Director of Schools Evelyn Rafalowski said a clause in Arwood's contract entitles him to any raise or bonus teachers get from the state.

In part, Arwood's contract states:

•Compensation - The salary for the director for the 2006-2007 year is $102,000 base salary. Evaluation determines additional salary thereafter.

•The Board (of Education) shall provide the director with all benefits applicable to professional employees of the school system including, but not limited to, group hospitalization coverage, holidays and sick leave.

•The board will evaluate Arwood's performance at least once per year, no later than March 31 each year.

Richard Kitzmiller, superintendent of Kingsport City Schools, has a clause in his contract that specifically states the Kingsport Board of Education will increase his salary "the same proportional amount as such increase provided to other certified personnel by the school system, including any ‘bonus' provided by the state, when such bonus becomes effective for other certified personnel."

Commissioner O.W. Ferguson is sponsor of the proposal to give commissioners their first raise in more than four years.

Ferguson said he proposed the pay raise after several other commissioners asked him to do it.

His resolution, co-sponsored by Commissioners Bill Kilgore and Buddy King, seeks to increase commissioners' pay from $275 per month to $500 per month - effective if, and as soon as, the full commission adopts it.

As the Executive Committee discussed the issue earlier this month, Commissioner Jim King asked if commissioners are permitted to raise their own pay - or if any increases can only become effective with the next term of office.

County Attorney Dan Street said elected officials raising their own pay is "generally frowned on. But I think they ought to get a raise."

Street later researched the issue and has said it is absolutely legal for commissioners to approve the raise and for the raise to take effect immediately.

Commissioner Wayne McConnell said increases in commissioners' pay should be somehow linked to other elected officials' pay increases, so sitting commissioners would never be put in the position of having to propose their own raises.

State law dictates the salary for most elected county officials, and raises are given each time state employees get a raise.

Commissioner Linda Brittenham said she agreed with McConnell, and that the county should also look at providing other benefits, such as insurance, to commissioners.

The Sullivan County Commission is scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. Monday on the second floor of the historic Sullivan County Courthouse.

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