Commission approves 1-week payroll lag

Published 9:22 am Tuesday, February 24, 2015


After a lengthy debate, members of the Carter County Commission passed a measure Monday night to implement employee payroll lagging on a split vote.

Currently, only employees of the landfill and the Carter County School System have their payroll lagged, but with the Commission’s approval, a plan has been put into place to implement payroll lagging over a period of five pay periods — a total of 10 weeks — beginning July 1.

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County employees currently are paid on Fridays. The first week the change would be implemented, employees would receive their pay the Monday after their usual Friday payday. The next pay period, employees would be paid on Tuesday. Each pay period would lag by one day until the payday once again falls on Friday, which would create the one week lag in the pay cycle.

The recommendation for the plan came from the Financial Management committee, which approved the measure unanimously. Commissioner Ronnie Trivett made a motion to approve the plan, and Commissioner Danny Ward seconded the motion.

During discussion on the motion, Commissioner Willie Campbell took issue with the lagged payroll plan and statements that only the landfill and school employees were lagged.

Campbell is a long-time employee of the Carter County Highway Department. When he was hired under former Road Superintendant R.H. Taylor, Campbell said his pay was held back as was the pay of other employees. This was done, he said, because the department provided employees with uniforms and in order for an employee to get their last paycheck they had to turn in their uniforms.

“I was held back two weeks but there is no record of it, but there is a witness to it, a secretary,” Campbell said.

Lagging payroll would also create an undue hardship on county employees, Campbell said. “Most of those guys are living from paycheck to paycheck and it is hard to make it,” he said.

Both of those comments were addressed by Carter County Finance Director Ingrid Deloach.

“Believe me, I understand,” she said. “Our employees do live from paycheck to paycheck, and we do not pay our employees sufficiently.”

The payroll lag was designed to take place slowly to help minimize the impact on the employees, Deloach said, adding that employees were also receiving an advance notice of about 4 months so they could prepare.

The last time the subject of lagging payroll was brought before the commission, Deloach said Campbell addressed the concern that his pay had already been lagged. Staff from the finance department researched county employment records at the courthouse and at the Highway Department to try to find the answer, she said.

“There is no documentation that you were lagged,” Deloach said. In response, Campbell asked her if the word of a witness “was not good enough?”When the issue was previously addressed, Deloach said she had spoken with the county attorney and was told documentation was needed in order to prove the Highway Department payroll had already been lagged.

“I don’t think it’s fair,” Campbell said, adding Highway Department employees had been lagged and this would dock their pay. If the measure passed the commission, Campbell said he wanted his two weeks of pay back.

Several other commissioners spoke up regarding the motion, some in favor and some against.

“I don’t know of anybody who ain’t living from paycheck to paycheck,” Commissioner Nancy Brown said, adding she believed the county needed to lag payroll to improve accounting practices.

Weighing in on the other side of the debate was Commissioner L.C. Tester, who said implementing the lag would be harmful to the employees, even if it is done over a period of time.

“If you vote this in you are going to hurt a lot of people, people who have small children,” he said. The only way to implement the lag and “do it right,” Tester said, was to give the employees a bonus in pay equivalent to the lag so the employees would not be affected.

Even Carter County Road Superintendent Roger Colbaugh voiced an opinion on the issue during the debate, saying lagged payroll would help his department better account for time and payroll. “We have to report time before we work it,” he said.

After a lot of debate, the motion was put to a vote and passed by a margin of 17-3. Commissioners Brown, Mike Hill, Trivett, Charles VonCannon, Isaiah Grindstaff, Ward, Ross Garland, Bobbie Gouge-Dietz, Timothy Holdren, Randall Jenkins, John Lewis, Larry Miller, Sonja Culler, Ray Lyons, Robert Carroll, Robert Gobble and Cody McQueen voted to approve payroll lagging. Commissioners Campbell, Tester and Buford Peters voted against the plan. Commissioners Jerry Proffitt, Al Meehan, Beth Depew and Scott Simerly were absent from the meeting.

In other business, a resolution to set all of the commission meetings for 6 p.m. failed to garner enough votes to pass. Currently the commission meetings are held on a rotating schedule with half of the meetings occurring at 9 a.m. and the other half at 6 p.m.

A motion to approve the resolution was made by Lewis and seconded by Brown. But, when put to a vote, it failed by a margin of 11 to 9, which is not a majority approval under commission guidelines. While 11 was the majority of those members present, in order for a motion to pass it must have a number of votes equal to or greater than the majority of the full commission, which means it must obtain at least 13 votes.