Sullivan commissioners to consider requests for new employees

J. H. Osborne • Feb 16, 2008 at 12:00 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — The gate’s been opened, the horses are out.

That’s how one Sullivan County commissioner has assessed a spat of requests for new employees.

Sullivan County commissioners agreed last month to up Circuit Court Clerk Tommy Kerns’ budget by $78,500 to pay for several new employees.

That decision reversed a sort of budget-balancing freeze the commission placed on new hires earlier this fiscal year.

When commissioners were hashing out the county’s $162 million budget for this fiscal year, Kerns sought $202,200 for five new employees and new off-site storage this year.

His request to fund new employees, however, met the budget ax — as did such requests from other department heads.

Kerns promised then he’d come back and ask again once the fiscal year unfolded.

And he did. And last month commissioners agreed to use $78,500 of the county’s multimillion-dollar general fund surplus to pay for two full-time positions and several part-time workers.

Since then, requests have come in for more new employees for other departments.

“When we opened the gate, the horses got out,” Commissioner Buddy King said as a committee discussed the issue last week.

The County Commission is scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. Tuesday. Among items on the agenda:

•Commissioner Eddie Williams is sponsor of a resolution to add two new full-time employees, as well as some extra part-time help, to the County Trustee Frances Harrell’s staff. The resolution says Harrell’s office continues to have an increased workload caused by a growing number of state regulations and a growing number of land parcels in the county. It also cites the amount of revenue Harrell’s office generates for the county’s general fund ($2.1 million this year). Williams is asking for $30,300 to pay for the new employees for the rest of this fiscal year, which ends June 30.

•Commissioners Garth Blackburn and Mark Vance are sponsors on an almost identical resolution — calling for the same amount of funding for the same number of new employees — for Register of Deeds Mary Lou Duncan’s office. Duncan was one of the office holders who originally sought new employees in this year’s budget process. This resolution, too, cites increased workload due to growth in regulations and development — and the general fund revenue stream provided by Duncan’s office (about $979,000 this year).

Williams, chairman of the Commission’s Budget Committee, said the offices in question have not had an increase in staff in several years.

Both resolutions are listed as new business this month. That means a waiver of the commission’s rules would be required for a vote on either at the meeting Tuesday.

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