Carter Budget Committee OKs more money for commissioners’ pay

John Thompson • Jan 10, 2012 at 10:25 AM

ELIZABETHTON — This was supposed to be the year that the Budget Committee of the Carter County Commission would stop making a budget amendment to get the commission through the last half of each fiscal year.

On Monday night, the committee found itself making the same budget amendment for yet another half of a year, even though it had discussed during last spring’s budget sessions funding the County Commission at an adequate level for the entire year.

For the past several years, the committee has set the budget for the commission at $80,000, even though experience has shown that was too low to cover all the salaries and legal notices required for the full year. That meant that during the middle of the year, the Budget Committee has had to recommend a budget amendment of $25,000 midway through each year to keep the commission from running a deficit.

Committee member Thomas “Yogi” Bowers, who was the chairman of the committee during last year’s budget-making sessions, reminded his fellow committee members about their intent last spring.

“I know this came up during the budget workshop,” Bowers said. The committee had discussed the need to increase the Commission’s budget by $25,000, “but we forgot to come back and do it,” Bowers said.

The result was that once again the Commission’s budget was set at $80,000 and once again halfway through the year the committee had to consider a budget amendment.

Finance Director Ingrid Deloach told the committee Monday night that the immediate problem is that entire amount budgeted for public notices has already been spent and that line item is already $60 in the hole.

Deloach said there is still $9,000 left for pay for commissioners’ attendance at commission and committee meetings, but that money will be used up before the end of the year.

Deloach said the commission averages spending $5,000 a month on pay and $300 per month on public notices. Because there is still $9,000 left, Deloach said an additional $25,000 should cover the pay for the rest of the year.

Bowers made the motion to take $25,000 from the General Fund to cover the cost. During the discussion on the motion, Nancy Brown asked if spending could be cut. She suggested reducing the pay for attending meetings. It was believed the state minimum was $70 for commission meetings and $35 for committee meetings. Carter County pays $100 and $50, respectively.

The motion was approved by a 6-2 vote, with Brown and Scott Sams voting against it. The committee will recommend the budget amendment at next week’s County Commission meeting.

On increasing the budget for public notices, Deloach said the county has gone away from placing small advertisements every time a committee met. Instead, the county is publishing one master calendar each month that lists all the meetings for the month. She said the cost is $250 per month for the ad.

She said the county is also notifying the public of meetings on its Internet site and placing a monthly schedule on the bulletin board at the courthouse.

There was some discussion on running the legal advertisement quarterly, but Commissioner John Lewis said he thought it should be published monthly to better keep the public informed.

Brown made the motion to increase the public notices budget by taking $2,400 from the General Fund. The motion was approved unanimously.

During the time for citizens to speak, Roy Livingston asked if the increased number of people placed on the new Ethics Committee will require more money. Bowers said the additional members were elected officeholders who will not receive any additional money. Livingston asked if the new members were willing to serve without pay. Bowers said such questions should be referred to the Ethics Committee and not the Budget Committee.

Jim Dabbondanza commented on the Commission’s decision last month to provide $40,000 in money saved from health insurance and using it to give employees a Christmas bonus. Dabbondanza said surplus money should be placed in a rainy day fund.

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