Johnson City Press Saturday, July 4, 2015

Courthouse pay hikes must be explained to taxpayers

November 28th, 2011 9:02 am by Staff Report

Washington County commissioners are set Monday to approve what some might euphemistically call “salary adjustments” for a number of county employees. Semantics aside, let’s be perfectly clear about what we are talking about here: Pay raises.
While many employees in both the public and private sectors are being asked to do more work at the same pay they earned three or more years ago, commissioners will consider substantial pay hikes for County Zoning Administrator Mike Rutherford and one of his subordinates. As Press staff writer Kate Prahlad reported earlier this month, the county’s Budget Committee has recommended increasing Rutherford’s current $63,505 salary to $73,866. He is also paid another $5,000 for stormwater-related duties. GIS Specialist Chris Pape would be made a chief deputy and his salary would be $34,778 for the balance of the fiscal year, up from his current pay of $25,277. A new deputy position would also be created in the department at an annual salary of $33,000.
Rutherford had asked for an even bigger pay hike for himself, but has since revised his salary request down by $11,575. County Mayor Dan Eldridge called this a compromise, but we fail to see what he means by that. Is this really what the County Commission should be doing at a time when so many families in Washington County are struggling to make ends meet? We doubt that any other elected county office holder would have the audacity to request these kinds of pay hikes in this economic climate. Certainly, not from a county mayor and county commissioners who have professed a desire to run government like a business.
But then again, Rutherford is not an elected courthouse official. He does not answer directly to the voters, as commissioners do. So the question is: How do commissioners justify these pay hikes to county taxpayers?
We await their answers.

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