County Mayor requests $18,000 raise for his administrative assistant

Published 12:03 pm Saturday, May 7, 2016

County Budget Graphic
Members of the Carter County budget committee heard funding requests from a majority of the county’s departments during a workshop session Friday evening and one subject that kept popping up was raises for county employees. However, one raise request drew more questions and comments than any of the others.
Many of the county’s office holders and department heads requested anywhere from a 2.5 percent to 5 percent as a raise for their employees. Carter County Sheriff Dexter Lunceford said he would like to request a 4 percent raise for his employees but did not include those numbers in his original budget request.
When Carter County Mayor Leon Humphrey presented the budget for his office, he drew some questions and comments from the committee after he explained the raise he was requesting for his administrative assistant Susan Robinson.
Overall, Humphrey’s budget request for the 2016-17 fiscal year shows an increase of $27,202.33 from the 2015-16 funding level. To balance his office budget, Humphrey made $27,202.33 in cuts to the county’s building and grounds budget, which also falls under the mayor’s purview. The majority of the cut — approximately $25,000 — is coming from the line item to pay for utilities at county buildings.
“We have some new initiatives we want to implement in the Mayor’s office,” Humphrey said. “We want to bring in some interns and expand the scope of the office.”
Budget Committee Chairwoman Sonja Culler asked if any of the increase in funds was to pay salaries for the interns and Humphrey said it was not.
Upon further questioning, Humphrey explained that the majority of the requested increase — approximately $18,000 — would go to fund a raise for Robinson. If approved, the raise would put Robinson’s salary at around $50,000 per year.
Commissioner Dr. Robert Acuff, who was filling in for an ill Buford Peters, questioned why the raise was so substantial. “That equates to around a 60 percent increase,” Acuff said.
Humphrey explained that the nature of Robinson’s job would be changing and the increase in salary would support that.
“You need to understand that we are able to do things with this person that we’ve not been able to do before,” Humphrey said. “You have one of only a few certified economic developers in the state.”
Following that statement by Humphrey, Culler had another question for the mayor. “Is this a secretary position or an economic developer,” she asked.
In response, Humphrey said “It’s going to be an initiative in the Mayor’s office. You are not going to have to spend any money on economic development.”
“This is not a secretarial position,” Humphrey continued. “A job description will be developed and it will be beyond that.”
Culler questioned even with an expanded job description why the raise would be so substantial.
“That’s is a big increase. That is more than some of our directors make,” she said. “It’s more than Benny (Lyons) makes as director of the landfill. It’s more than Michael (Kennedy) makes as deputy finance director.”
Humphrey told committee members they “have to look at what the person is capable of doing” when considering a salary increase.
Culler told Humphrey they may request he come back before the committee over the matter once a job description has been completed, saying she felt they should have the description to review before making a determination on the raise. When Carter County Finance Director Christa Byrd presented her budget to the committee, she made reference to Humphrey’s request for a raise for Robinson.
“If an administrative assistant makes $50,000 a year, I think my deputy director should make more than that,” she said. I shouldn’t have to tell my deputy that an administrative assistant makes more than he does.”
As other department heads and office holders presented their budget requests, Culler asked many of them what their deputy, or second-in-command, makes. Those who said had deputies replied the salary was in the $31,000 range.
Members of the budget committee also heard requests for increased funding from other departments as well.
Most departments had to request additional funds to cover the increase in the cost of health insurance. Each department must pay for the cost of their employee’s insurance out of their own budget.
A substantial increase was requested by the Carter County Election Commission. Administrator of Elections Tracy Harris said the increase was to cover the cost of the state office primary election and county general election which will be held in August and the state general election, presidential election and federal office general election in November.
“Her budget fluctuates based on the number of elections she has in the year,” Byrd explained to the committee. “This year it will increase and next year it will be cut.”
The Sheriff’s Office also requested a significant increase in funding — an increase of $180,511.59 for the Sheriff’s Office and an increase of $24,603.19 for the detention center. Carter County Sheriff Dexter Lunceford said his department has additional revenue coming in that will cover a significant portion of the requested increase.
Overall, the requested increases to the county’s general fund budget totaled $542,925.32.
Friday evening marked the second of a series of workshops by the budget committee to begin work on the county’s budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year.

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