Is the Carter County Commission too bloated?

Published 8:29 am Wednesday, August 23, 2017

There is a push on to downsize the Carter County Commission from 24 to 16 members — changing the number from three representatives for each of the eight districts to two per district.
A proposal to downsize the commission was denied Monday evening after County Attorney Josh Hardin advised against doing so until an reapportionment process was completed, to ensure there is equal representation all across the county. The county will be required to reapportion its districts in four more years, once data from the 2020 census is available. However, if the county chooses to reapportion itself before then, it can do so.
Certainly, a commission of 16 can operate as efficiently as 24 members. For many years under the county court-magistrate form of government, each district was represented by two magistrates. Cutting the size of the commission would save money and promote efficiency. There is an expense for a county commission. For example, the county audit report for 2015 showed $45,589 paid for board and committee member fees for the commission.
Currently, each commissioner receives $100 for each meeting of the full commission and $50 for each committee meeting they attend.
State law sets the minimum pay for counties the size of Carter County at $35 for a full meeting and $17.50 for each committee meeting.
It’s been obvious for some time now that Carter County doesn’t need 24 county commissioners. We believe downsizing will help lessen the financial burden on taxpayers, however we do need to get a firm grip on the county’s population numbers to ensure fair representation for every district before the downsizing is done.
That’s an important task and one that should be done correctly.
Currently 40 of Tennessee’s 95 countries have cut the size of their commissions to 15. Many Tennessee counties have only nine commissioners.
A poll conducted by the STAR in 2011 showed that most who responded preferred a smaller country commission.
For some time there has been division on the commission, a select group that opposes the county mayor and a group that is in his corner. While each commissioner first and foremost represents their district, as a whole they represent what is best for the entire county. Regardless of the size of the commission, we need to elect civic-minded people to the commission, who will set aside their own personal agendas to do what is best for all of Carter County. Until we do that, the size of the commission does not matter. However, we do feel that a 16-member commission can be as efficient as a 24-member commission and that downsizing is the way to go.

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