911 Board revisits employee bonuses to address rumors

Published 7:58 am Thursday, July 30, 2015

Rumors and statements made by community members led the Carter County 911 Board to discuss employee bonuses previously approved by the agency once again during their monthly meeting on Wednesday.
In June, the Board voted to use the fiscal year’s budget surplus to provide employees with a one-time bonus. Employees were granted the bonus across the board with full-time employees receiving a one-time bonus of $3,000 and part-time employees receiving $1,500.
Board Chairman Mike Shouse placed the bonuses back on the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting to give the Board and Carter County 911 Director Dale Blevins a chance to discuss the bonuses and how they were funded.
The surplus for the 2014-15 fiscal year budget was the result of a few different things, Blevins said. The agency received reimbursement payments for equipment they had been purchasing since 2012 and also received some additional one-time funding from the state that will not be available in future years. Also, 911 was able to save some money on depreciation, Blevins said.
“It’s not extra that is floating around, it will not be there next year,” Blevins said. “It will not be a recurring thing.”
The surplus came to about $90,000, and the board decided to put half of the money into its fund reserve and divide the remainder into employee bonuses.
“I think our employees are our best asset,” Blevins said. “We are one of the lowest-paid agencies in this area. The only one that pays less than we do is Johnson County.”
Board member Kelly Geagley, who also serves as director of the Elizabethton Housing and Development Agency, voice his support of the Board’s decision to reward the 911 employees.
“I made the motion to give it to the employees, and I’ll make that motion every year if we have a surplus,” Geagley said. “I don’t think you should ever apologize for treating your employees well.”
Some of the agency’s employees were present during the meeting, and Geagley took the opportunity to speak directly to them.
“You all work hard,” he said. “I’m proud of what you do, and I’m glad to give you that money.”
Elizabethton Police Chief Greg Workman also voiced his support of the bonuses.
“We did the right thing here,” he said. “If you don’t take care of your people, you are beating yourself up.”
Shouse told the group he wanted the matter brought back up for discussion to help clear the air about where the money came from.
“There was no problem as far as the Board is concerned, but there were some comments made that we had asked for more money this year then had a surplus,” Shouse said.
Among the comments Shouse said he had heard in the community was a rumor that because the agency saw a surplus this year, their funds would see cuts from the local level. The City of Elizabethton’s budget for the 2015-16 fiscal year has already been set. The Carter County budget for the 2015-16 year is set to be debated by the Carter County Commission Tuesday after a public hearing.
“If we don’t get the funding we’ve been getting, it will affect our budget,” Blevins said. “We’ve cut everywhere we can cut.”
Cuts by the local government could have a far greater reach than many would suspect.
Under state law, if the local governments decrease funding to a 911 agency, then the state Emergency Communications Board can cut state funding by the same level, Blevins said.
The delay by Carter County in approving its fiscal year budget also impacted Carter County 911 in another way, the Board was unable to approve their own budget since funding from the County has yet to be approved. The Board voted to table approval of the agency’s budget until after the Commission meets Tuesday. If necessary, the Board will hold a special called meeting to approve the agency’s budget.

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