Hawkins leaders to consider pay raise

Jeff Bobo • Mar 20, 2007 at 1:39 AM

ROGERSVILLE - The Hawkins County Commission will likely be considering a pay raise for its members in the 2007-08 fiscal year budget.

Budget Committee member Virgil Mallet described the proposal as "keeping up with the Joneses."

Monday night the Sullivan County Commission considered a pay raise for its members, but it failed by one vote. The pay raise will likely come back before the commission again, however.

Monday afternoon during the Hawkins County Commission's Budget Committee meeting, a proposal similar to what was considered in Sullivan County was presented to Budget Committee members.

Currently, Hawkins County commissioners receive $100 per regular monthly meeting and $50 for each committee meeting. They also receive travel expenses when they attend government functions and have the option of signing up for county employee health insurance.

In the 2005-06 fiscal year, Hawkins County spent a total of $53,339 on its County Commission including $24,400 for monthly meetings, $15,350 for committee meetings, and $13,589 for travel.

The new proposal calls for Hawkins County commissioners to receive a flat monthly salary of $300, which would include monthly meetings, committee meetings and all travel expenses.

The estimated annual cost to the county under that proposal is $75,600.

Budget Committee members acknowledged Monday that giving themselves a raise might not go over very well with the public, especially considering that the commission has approved property tax increases the past three years and may be looking at a fourth increase later this year.

But some Budget Committee members also said it's about time they received a raise. No one could remember exactly when they had their last raise, but they figured it was in the early 1990s.

"I would sure appreciate a raise," Commissioner Kenneth Long said. "I've been here about 27 years, and I've gotten one raise since I've been here."

Hawkins County residents can't complain about their commissioners currently being overpaid. Only 16 of Tennessee's 95 counties pay their commissioners less per meeting than Hawkins County.

Another option that might be considered is paying commissioners based on what the county mayor makes. Some Tennessee counties have adopted a policy of taking the county mayor's monthly salary, dividing it by the number of county commissioners, and then paying each commissioner an equal share. That would amount to about $300.75 per commissioner per month.

"You're going to discourage a lot of people from running if you don't pay anything," Long said. "People can come back and say, you know what they paid when you ran. But we've got to be realistic."

The committee voted to postpone consideration of the pay raise until next month's meeting. The pay raise would have to be presented to the full County Commission as part of the 2007-08 budget proposal, but the committee agreed that it would like to hear a vote specifically on the pay raise idea beforehand.

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