Sullivan officeholders in line for raises July 1

J. H. Osborne • Apr 5, 2007 at 11:39 AM

BLOUNTVILLE - The rank and file among Sullivan County employees don't know yet whether to expect a pay raise in the coming year.

And county commissioners have a few more weeks to see if their own self-prompted salary increase is approved.

But constitutional officeholders in the county - the sheriff, county mayor, highway commissioner and others - can rest easy: They'll be getting a raise July 1.

Tennessee law dictates a minimum level of pay for those officeholders, based on county population. It also links the pay to the average annualized general increase in state employees' salaries. State law provides for an automatic increase in the minimum salary each year based on the percentage increase given to state employees for the previous fiscal year.

In the past year, state employees received total average increases of 6.23 percent over the last year. That means the highest raise allowed by the law for officeholders this coming fiscal year.

Five percent is the most the law allows. And that figure is applied to the median county by population. The subsequent dollar amount is then used statewide.

County Mayor Steve Godsey's salary this fiscal year is $91,572 - up from $89,235 last year when Richard Venable held the office. The salary will increase again on July 1 by an estimated $4,500.

How much the county mayor's salary increases depends on how much salaries for other officeholders increase.

State law dictates that county mayors' salaries be at least 5 percent higher than the salary for any other county constitutional officer.

When Sullivan County's population grew to over the 150,000 mark with the 2000 Census, it resulted in a boost in pay for the offices in question, Sullivan County Accounts and Budgets Director Larry Bailey said last year.

The automatic increase for constitutional officeholders' salaries, based on any increase in compensation for state employees, became a requirement in 2002.

Bailey said the increases are added into the county's budget by his office.

The following offices pay the same salary: assessor of property; trustee; circuit court clerk; chancery court clerk; clerk and master; county clerk; and register of deeds.

For the current fiscal year the salary for those offices is $73,069 - up from $71,048 last fiscal year - and it's set to increase to $75,872 for the upcoming fiscal year.

The salary for administrator of elections is, by state law, set at 90 percent of the salary of the property assessor.

For the upcoming fiscal year the minimum will equal $68,285 - up from $65,762 this year and up from $63,943 last year.

Sheriff Wayne Anderson's salary this year is $87,211 - up from $84,987 last fiscal year. The minimum salary for county sheriff, under state law, for the upcoming fiscal year will be $83,460 - an increase of $3,084 from this year's minimum level.

Bailey said Anderson's pay exceeds the minimum because Sullivan County's sheriff receives additional compensation for operating multiple facilities, a practice that is permitted by state law.

So Anderson's base pay will be increased to reflect the increase in the state minimum.

The same situation and same figures apply to the salary for Commissioner of Roads Allan Pope. Bailey said that office, too, is provided additional compensation because of additional duties and responsibilities.

The salaries for sheriff and commissioner of roads set the bar for the county mayor's salary.

The minimum salary for county mayor, based on state law, will increase by $3,238 for the upcoming fiscal year - to $87,632.

But state law dictates that the county mayor's salary must be at least 5 percent higher than the salary paid to any other county constitutional officer.

If the salaries for sheriff and commissioner of roads is increased to $90,295 (the current $87,211 plus the $3,084 increase in the statutory minimum), the county mayor's salary will increase to more than $96,000.

The Sullivan County Commission is scheduled to vote later this month on linking commissioners' pay to that of the county mayor.

If it passes, beginning in July 2008, every time the mayor gets a raise, so would commissioners.

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