Carter Budget Committee rejects pay increase for Planning Department

John Thompson • Jun 3, 2019 at 10:50 PM

ELIZABETHTON — Carter County has not been able to resolve a question on what to pay its economic development director and staff members.

The Carter County Planning Commission attempted to answer that question during its last meeting May 28, when it unanimously approved salary increases amounting to $88,789.29.

The Budget Committee of the Carter County Commission did not like that answer. Meeting on Monday to consider the Planning Commission’s proposal, the Budget Committee voted against the salary increases 6-2.

Budget Committee Chairman Ross Garland and committee member Kelly Collins voted for the amendment. Committee members Isaiah Grindstaff, Patty Woodby. Willie Campbell, Ronnie Trivett and Travis Hill voted against it. 

The reason why the salary increases were being considered is because the Planning Department has assumed a major new role. In addition to the staff’s traditional roles of planning, zoning and building codes enforcement and inspections, the County Commission had authorized the Planning Department to also take over the responsibilities of economic development for the county.

Carter County Planning Director Chris Schuettler told the Budget Committee on Monday night that his staff has already proven it can perform the economic development functions in addition to its other roles. He gave recent examples of expansions at Snap-on Tools and A.Y. McDonald.

Schuettler told the committee Monday that the full commission had already committed to additional compensation for the staff when it added the additional responsibilities to the Planning Commission. The exact amount had not been specified.

Jerry Pearman, chairman of the Carter County Planning Commission, wrote a letter to the Budget Committee and to Brad Burke, the county’s director of finance, in which Pearman said the money for the pay increase is available from increased fees the Planning Department has brought in this year.

Pearman said the increase in Planning Department fees in the 2018-19 fiscal year has been $100,000. With two months remaining in the fiscal year, Pearman said it appears the increase in fees should amount to $120,000.

The reason why the County Commission has placed the responsibilities of economic development on the Planning Commission is because that role had been taken away from the Carter County Tomorrow group a few years ago. Economic development had been operated by the Carter County Mayor’s Office until 2018.

Pearman warned in his letter that if the salary increases were not approved, it could have an impact on the county’s economic development efforts.

“If the budget is not approved as submitted, the Carter Country Regional Planning Commission will be forced to review services rendered by the department, and cuts to these services may be forthcoming,” Pearman wrote.

With the defeat of the Planning Commission’s recommended salary increases, the Budget Committee approved a new schedule to work on an agreement. The Committee tasked the Planning Commission to hold a special meeting on Monday, June 17, at 3 p.m. to work on a new salary recommendation.

The County Commission meets at 6 p.m. that day, but the recommendation won’t be introduced because it will not have time for the Budget Committee to consider the matter. The Budget Committee would hold its own special meeting on Tuesday, June 18, at 6 p.m.

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