Commission votes to send message to Nashville about unfunded mandates

Published 5:10 pm Thursday, March 22, 2018

Members of the Carter County Commission voted this week to send a message to state officials regarding “unfunded mandates” that require the county to pay for expenditures required by the state.

When the Commission met on Monday, the members voted in overwhelming majority to approve a resolution asking the County’s representatives to the Tennessee General Assembly to investigate and carefully reconsider any legislation that places new financial burdens on counties without providing a mechanism to fund those obligations. The resolution also asks the state elected officials to support legislation that would relieve or reduce the financial burden upon the counties for funding of annual mandated increases in the salaries of certain elected or appointed officials.

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The resolution was approved by the Budget Committee and then presented to the full Commission for approval.

“We are asking them not to shove any more unwelcome, extra bills down our throats and put an even bigger burden on our already overburdened county budget,” said Commissioner Mike Hill.

Several other commissioners spoke out in favor of the resolution and how the state passes unfunded mandates down to the counties.

“That’s the way the state raises taxes without getting the blame. They put the blame on us, and it’s not right,” said Commissioner Buford Peters.

While the resolution specifically addresses the salary increases the state mandates, oftentimes annually, for county elected officials, commissioners were quick to point out they do not have an issue with the local officials themselves. Some stated that the raises set by the state for the elected officials often make it unaffordable for the county to provide adequate raises for the county’s employees.

Commission Chairman Commissioner Dr. Robert Acuff said over the past 16 years, the salaries for county elected officials has increased 145 percent by mandate of the state. The counties have not been able to provide that same level of pay increase for employees.

“Folks that stay with us year after year after year we need to do a little bit better job taking care of them,” Acuff said. “I bet over that same 16-year period, they probably have not seen a 10 or 15 percent increase in their salaries.”

In speaking with state officials recently, Acuff said he was told other counties across the state are making similar requests to their representatives in the Tennessee General Assembly.

When the resolution came to a vote it passed by a margin of 22-2. Commissioners Peters, Acuff, Nancy Brown, Hill, Al Meehan, Bradley Johnson, Ronnie Trivett, Charles VonCannon, Isaiah Grindstaff, Danny Ward, L.C. Tester, Ross Garland, Bobbie Gouge-Dietz, Timothy Holdren, Randall Jenkins, John Lewis, Sonja Culler, Ray Lyons, Scott Simerly, Robert Carroll, Kelly Collins, and Cody McQueen voted to approve the resolution. Commissioners Willie Campbell and Larry “Doc” Miller opposed the resolution.