Sullivan commissioners refuse to save taxpayers money

Editorial Board • Mar 28, 2016 at 11:34 AM

Sullivan County residents should take note of the following commissioners who voted last week against saving them money, and against good governance: Mark Bowery, Darlene Calton, Michael Cole, Sherry Grubb, Terry Harkleroad, Mack Harr, Dennis Houser, Matthew Johnson, Kit McGlothlin, Randy Morrell, Bob Neal, Angie Stanley, Mark Vance and Eddie Williams.

These commissioners had opportunity last week to save taxpayers at least $45,000 and probably thousands of dollars more. That’s not a lot of money in the total budget of Sullivan County, but shouldn’t commissioners take every opportunity to save every dollar they can?

It will cost county taxpayers $45,000 to keep three commissioners on the payroll for their two-year term of office, three commissioners the county can well do without given that there are 24 commissioners in total. The $45,000 is what those three commissioners will be paid for attending regular County Commission meetings; 12 per month at $637.55 per meeting.

Why so much? Because Sullivan County commissioners are the highest paid in the region at more than $600 per month. County taxpayers are shelling out $15,000 per month for two dozen commissioners while Tennessee’s most populous county, Shelby, has but 13 commissioners and about half the state’s counties have 15.

The commissioners listed above had opportunity to support their redistricting committee, which, after examining district boundaries, recommended that the size of the commission be dropped slightly, from 24 members to 21 members. These commissioners had opportunity to bring efficiency to the conduct of county business and at the same time save taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars. They had opportunity to follow the lead of the Washington County Commission, which last year reduced its numbers from 25 to 15.

The vote was taken last week. The commissioners listed above voted against the resolution.

The proposal before the commission would have realigned commission districts from the current 11 to the seven districts used by the county school districts. Each of these seven districts would have three commissioners for a total of 21, as opposed to the current 24. There was an issue dealing with constables where dropping the commission’s size might also have cut the number of constables, but that concern should have been alleviated when the resolution’s lead sponsor, Commissioner Bill Kilgore, removed all mention of constables and constable districts.

Commissioners were voting only to eliminate three of their number. What justification could there be for opposing that? Commissioners may say 24 of them are needed to manage the county’s business since commissioners are appointed to a total of 17 committees and offices. But there are only three main committees that meet regularly — the rest don’t meet unless an issue requires it.

Washington County took affirmative action to cut the size of its commission only after county residents supported candidates who promised to champion that specific cause. Those candidates won election, and they kept their promise.

Sullivan County residents have two years to plan out the same approach, dropping the number of districts to seven, with two commissioners per district for a total of 14.

Washington County commissioners listened to their constituents who complained about there being too many seats at the County Commission’s table for consistently coherent governing. Candidates for Sullivan County Commission seeking seats held by the commissioners listed above should find plenty of support running on that theme.

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