Sullivan County commissioners may cut their pay

J. H. Osborne • Jun 17, 2013 at 3:02 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — It looks like Sullivan County commissioners could be about to cut their own pay rate, a move that could also reduce the pay for members of the county board of education.

The Sullivan County Commission has no direct control over BOE pay, but the BOE voted in recent years to link its pay to that of county commissioners.

Commissioner Ed Marsh has been pushing his colleagues to cut their pay and to go on record to do so before an automatic pay increase scheduled to take effect July 1.

On that date, County Mayor Steve Godsey’s salary will increase by 4.6 percent, due to a state law that links the pay for county constitutional officeholders to pay increases given to state employees in the prior year.

The Sullivan County Commission voted a few years ago to link its own pay to the county mayor’s pay — giving each commissioner a percentage of whatever the county mayor is being paid each year. That move meant each time the county mayor gets the state-related raise — paid in total by local taxpayers — all 24 Sullivan County commissioners get the raise, too.

Marsh has proposed reducing county commissioner pay to $6,000 per year, or $500 per month.

That would take it back to about what it was four years ago — down from $7,112 per year this budget cycle.

Marsh has said the move would save county taxpayers about $35,000.

So far, two of the County Commission’s three standing committees have endorsed Marsh’s plan.

Tennessee law dictates a minimum level of pay for various officeholders, based on county population. It also links the pay to the average annualized general increase in state employees’ salaries.

Godsey’s salary this fiscal year is $101,611.65 — after multiple increases since he took office in 2006, and up considerably from the $89,235 salary of Godsey’s predecessor during his last year in office.

To get to Godsey’s raise for the upcoming budget year you have to first calculate the new pay levels for Sheriff Wayne Anderson and Interim Sullivan County Highway Commissioner Terry Shaffer.

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

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

State law also dictates that the sheriff’s salary and the highway commissioner’s salary be at least 10 percent more than that of “general officeholders,” which share the same pay level and include: 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 $81,762 — and it’s set to increase to $85,531 on July 1, based on the figures from County Technical Assistance Service (CTAS).

Anderson’s salary this year is $96,773. The minimum salary for county sheriff under state law — in a county of Sullivan County’s population — for the upcoming fiscal year will be $94,084, according to the figures from CTAS.

But Anderson’s pay will exceed the minimum because Sullivan County’s sheriff receives additional compensation — $6,835 — for operating multiple facilities, a practice that is permitted by state law.

The same situation and same figures apply to the salary for Shaffer. That office, too, is provided additional compensation — $6,835 — because of what’s described as additional duties and responsibilities.

Including the supplement, Anderson’s and Shaffer’s salaries are each projected at $100,469 for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

That will put Godsey’s salary at $105,492.45 as of that date.

That’s where the raise for county commissioners comes in. In 2007, the Sullivan County Commission approved raising commissioners’ salaries from $250 per month to $500 per month, with future raises linked to the county mayor’s salary. That measure said in subsequent years each commissioner will be paid 7 percent of the county mayor’s salary.

Godsey’s $101,611.65 current salary means each commissioner is being paid $7,112.81 for the current budget cycle, according to Moore.

Commissioners’ pay beginning July 1 — based on current policy — will increase to $7,384.47.

Current salary information was provided to the Times-News on March 1 by the county’s payroll department. Figures cited as being from CTAS are available at www.ctas.tennessee.edu.

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