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Sullivan commissioners’ raise back in budget

J. H. Osborne • Aug 3, 2013 at 11:21 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — It looks like a self-granted pay raise for Sullivan County’s 24 county commissioners is a go after all.

A list of proposed general fund spending for the fiscal year that began July 1 — an actual budget has yet to be developed — was distributed to the County Commission’s Budget Committee last week.

The list was cited as what the committee intends to use to develop a budget, which will be recommended to the full commission.

Despite what some Budget Committee members told the Times-News after an earlier meeting, the list indicates the group has rejected the recommendation of its sister committees and will include the 4.6 percent raise for commissioners’ pay.

The commission’s executive and administrative committees had recommended not only rejecting that self-given raise, but cutting commissioners’ pay — a move proponents have said would save county taxpayers $35,000 this year.

According to public information on file with the county’s payroll office, county commissioners already are being paid the higher amounts that reflect the 4.6 percent raise.

County Commissioner Ed Marsh had pushed his colleagues to cut their pay and to go on record to do so before the automatic pay increase took effect July 1.

On that date, County Mayor Steve Godsey’s salary increased 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 Commissioner get the raise, too.

Marsh had 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 for the budget cycle that ended June 30.

Two of the County Commission’s three standing committees 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. County commissioners, however, are not among those covered by the state law.

Godsey’s salary for the fiscal year that ended June 30 was $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 this budget year you have to have 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 year that ended June 30, the salary for those offices was $81,762 — and it increased to $85,531 on July 1.

Anderson’s salary for the year that ended June 30 was $96,773. The minimum salary for county sheriff under state law — in a county of Sullivan County’s population — for the fiscal year that started July 1 is $94,084, according to figures from the state’s County Technical Assistance Service (CTAS).

But 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.

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

Including the supplement, Anderson’s and Shaffer’s salaries are each now $100,919.

Godsey’s salary is now $105,965.

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 vote said in subsequent years each commissioner will be paid 7 percent of the county mayor’s salary.

Godsey’s $101,611.65 salary last year meant each commissioner was being paid $7,112.81 prior to July 1.

Commissioners’ pay now, beginning July 1, is $7,418.

Current salary information was provided to the Times-News on July 26 by the county’s payroll department.

Figures cited as being from CTAS are available at www.ctas.tennessee.edu.

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