Johnson City Press: Carter County Commission fails to approve 2019-20 budget
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Carter County Commission fails to approve 2019-20 budget

John Thompson • Jun 17, 2019 at 10:47 PM

ELIZABETHTON — Budget time is ticking down in Carter County, and the County Commission is still undecided about what to do about the 2019-20 budget for the county Planning Commission.

By two votes, the commission failed to approve the latest budget proposal from the planners. In the monthly commission meeting Monday night, the commission voted 11-10, with two abstentions and one absence, to approve the planners’ budget proposal. It takes 13 votes for a motion to fall in the County Commission. It was the second vote taken on the budget proposal. The first vote was 10-10 with three abstentions and one absence.

The controversy is over the proposal by the planners to give employees of the Planning Department a raise because they are now doing more work. Earlier this year, the County Commission requested that the Planning Department assume responsibilities for economic development and managing several construction projects.

The Planning Commission was willing to allow the department to assume the additional responsibilities, and Planning Director Chris Schuettler said there was an understanding that additional pay for the additional work would be worked out with the County Commission.

The Planning Department proposals for the coming fiscal year have been reviewed by the Budget Committee and rejected. The latest rejection came on Monday, June 10, when a resubmitted budget was defeated by the committee.

The matter was then discussed in a full commission workshop Thursday, June 13. No votes were taken at that meeting.

The Planning Commission met Monday afternoon, shortly before the County Commission meeting. The Planners considered two options. One was another proposal to continue to perform the additional roles of economic development and project management. The bottom line for revised budget would be $416,391.34.

The Planning Commission also considered a second option Monday that would have eliminated the economic development portion of the additional responsibilities, keeping project-management responsibilities. That would reduce the bottom line on the budget proposal to $401,292.64.

Although the Planing Commission was unanimous in deciding on the smaller role, emotions were heated about the difficulties in getting a budget through the Commission. The problem of assigning the additional roles and then not agreeing to pay supplements was referred to in the meeting as an “unfunded mandate.”

Randall Jenkins, a county commissioner who has been appointed by that body to the Planning Commission, told the planners during Monday’s meeting that he could not vote for the larger amount. He said he was told to leave, that his “services were no longer needed.” Jenkins then left the meeting prior to the planners voting on the lower amount.

With the defeat of the compromise budget proposal, the Planning Commission must agree on another proposed budget during the next 10 days and submit it to the Country Commission to consider in a special meeting.

In other matters, the County Commission elected David Miller to a vacant Commission seat in the 8th District that had been held by Rick Richardson, who died in office. The Commissioners also appointed Commissioner Travis Hill to the seat on the Financial Management Committee that Richardson had held.

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