The Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Alderman on Thursday unanimously approved on first reading a 2012-2013 fiscal year budget that includes a 5 percent pay increase for all town employees and no increases in property taxes or service fees and rates.
The $5,606,739 budget will be called up for second and final reading in a called meeting tentatively scheduled for June 22.
The final budget reading meeting will include a discussion of the cost of adding one patrol officer position requested by the police department and proposed for approval by Alderman Chuck Vest.
Craig Ford, the town’s operations manager, told the board the additional position was requested to allow all patrol officers to rotate in and out of the investigative division in order to assist Major Matt Rice, the department’s sole investigator.
Ford said while the workload in all departments increases over time and several departmental requests for additional staff were all warranted, the 120 open criminal investigations Rice is currently working are impossible for a single officer to cover.
“Victims suffer because crimes can’t be investigated,” Ford said.
Ford said the rotation plan will also allow all patrol officers to gain valuable investigation experience and give those who excel in investigation an opportunity for promotion.
Vest’s motion for approval of the addition of a patrol officer was tabled until the budget’s next reading in order to allow the administrative staff to adjust the figures to include the additional cost.
The budget’s first reading discussion also included a request from Senior Center Director Joan Miller to advance one part-time staff member to full-time.
Miller told the board senior center membership has increased by 40 percent over the past two years and has created additional demands on the staff and volunteers who are being “worked to death.”
Vice Mayor Terry Countermine said he considered the 5 percent across-the-board pay increase for all town employees “very important to bringing employee compensation up to where it should be” and asked the other board members, “which is more important , adding new employees or increasing employee compensation?”
Vest noted the town is in negotiations with Washington County on future county support for the senior center, which will require additional staff with the opening of the new center. Construction on the new center is expected to begin late this year.
Vest said his motion was to add one staff member for the police department only, “because crime victims suffer.”