Sullivan panels OK 2 percent raise for county employees

J. H. Osborne • May 9, 2013 at 11:58 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — A 2 percent pay raise for all non-sheriff’s, non-school employees of Sullivan County — retroactive to April 1 — moved two steps closer to reality Wednesday.

The proposal gained the endorsement of two of the Sullivan County Commission’s three primary committees.

The commission’s Budget Committee is likely to take up the issue tonight.

It could come for a vote by the full commission on May 20.

Last month, Sullivan County Mayor Steve Godsey and Sheriff Wayne Anderson announced they had reached an 11th-hour agreement to avert a trial — which was to have begun that morning — in Anderson’s lawsuit seeking more funding for his department’s budget.

The major concession of the settlement was a 2 percent pay raise for all sheriff’s employees, retroactive to April 1.

That will cost around $38,000 for the last three months of this fiscal year, which ends June 30.

It will continue into the years ahead, costing about four times as much for a full year.

After that settlement was approved by the judge and entered into court record, Godsey and Anderson each spoke to reporters and each said the Sullivan County Commission would consider extending the 2 percent raise to all non-school employees beginning July 1.

But a growing number of county commissioners said that wasn’t fair and everyone should get the raise at the same time.

County Commissioner Robert White is primary sponsor of a resolution calling to extend the 2 percent raise retroactively to non-sheriff’s employees “in an effort to be fair and equitable to those employees who have faithfully served this county ... and are deserving.”

The resolution had seven co-sponsors as of Wednesday evening.

White said he has heard some rumblings against his push for extending the 2 percent raise to all county employees before July 1 but that he has received enough positive feedback to think enough commissioners will support it when it comes for a vote.

White said he had even had one person ask him to drop the issue for now because they were afraid Anderson would somehow be credited with getting the raise for all employees.

White said that for now, the resolution is submitted for “first reading” at the commission’s meeting on May 20. If left with that status, it would not be expected to come for a vote until a month later — meaning it would need a simple majority, or at least 13 voting “yes,” to gain approval.

To call for a vote this month would require a “waiver of the rules,” which requires a two-thirds majority — or at least 16 votes in the affirmative.

The county’s next budget year begins July 1. Committees are just beginning the process of developing a proposed financial plan for that budget cycle. White said that’s why he wants the issue brought up now — so a realistic discussion can occur as the budget is being developed.

If approved, the 2 percent pay raise for non-sheriff’s, non-school employees will cost about $40,000 for employees under the county’s general fund, White said, and funding to cover the raise for employees of the Highway Department, Sullivan County Emergency Medical Service, Solid Waste, and Observation Knob Park will come from existing funds in those accounts.

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