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Training, travel funds win backing

Much discussion. Little decision.

County Mayor Leon Humphrey addresses the Budget Committee with a plea for funding to be placed back into the budget to cover travel and training expenses for the County Commission members.

County Mayor Leon Humphrey addresses the Budget Committee with a plea for funding to be placed back into the budget to cover travel and training expenses for the County Commission members.

Thursday’s meeting was the Carter County Budget Committee’s first opportunity to vote on a County budget for the 2014-2015 fiscal year since the conclusion of the workshop process.
There were only two votes cast during the meeting.
One approved a budget increase for pathology services, and the other returned funding to cover travel and training expenses for members of the County Commission. The remainder of the county’s budget was left unapproved and will be discussed further at the committee’s next meeting on June 9.
The first item approved by the committee was an increase in funding for pathology services in the amount of $39,212.24. During the 2013-2014 fiscal year, pathology services received funding of $53,743; the approved increase will bring that number up to $92,955.24.
Carter County is one of eight counties in East Tennessee that partner together to support pathology services provided by East Tennessee State University. The agreement between the eight counties and ETSU is negotiated by the college and the mayors of each county.
County Mayor Leon Humphrey spoke to members of the budget committee about the request for additional funding.
“The reason for this is with the number of autopsies they perform increasing and now the new regulations, including toxicology reports, with the staff they had they could not keep up,” he said, adding that the program is having to increase its staff not only to keep up with the demand but also to maintain accreditation.
ETSU’s request for additional funding for pathology services passed on a unanimous vote.
The second vote held by the committee was also on an issue Humphrey presented.
He spoke to the committee and made a plea for funding to be returned to the budget to cover travel and training costs for members of the County Commission so commissioners could attend an orientation seminar held by the County Technical Assistance Service in Nashville.
Humphrey, who reminded the committee that more approximately two-thirds of the commission will be made up of new commissioners after the August election, touted the training as a great benefit to new commissioners and therefore a great benefit to the county.
“Please do not be penny-wise and dollar-foolish,” Humphrey said.
Commissioner Nancy Brown also voiced praise for the orientation program for new commissioners.
“I think it is the best money this county can spend,” she said. “I learned a lot at the orientation.”
Other members of the committee were not as forthcoming with praise. Commissioner Tom “Yogi” Bowers said that while he thought the orientation did provide a benefit to new commissioners, in his opinion the funding for travel and training had been abused in the past.
“These people who are seeking these offices have an obligation to seek this training without putting it on the backs of the taxpayers,” Bowers said.
A motion to add funds back to the budget for travel and training expenses for commissioners was made by Commissioner Bill Armstrong and seconded by Commissioner Lawrence Hodge. The motion passed 6-2, with Bowers and Commissioner Steve Chambers casting the dissenting votes.
At the last budget workshop, members of the committee directed County Finance Director Ingrid Deloach to speak with the department head and elected officials and ask them to rework their budget proposals to absorb increased costs for health insurance and retirement benefits. Deloach reported to the committee on Thursday night that some, but not all, of the departments had been able to absorb the costs.
Deloach also reported the Finance Department had not received any budget proposal from the County Parks and Recreations Department, so the budget proposal she had drafted at the committee’s request included no funding for that department for 2014-2015.
The committee decided to review the budget proposal drafted by Deloach and hold further discussion and possibly a vote on the budget at the next scheduled meeting on June 9.