Proposed county budget includes no employee raises despite increases in salary, benefits line items

Published 4:38 pm Monday, July 9, 2018

Next week members of the Carter County Commission will debate and vote on a proposed budget for the coming fiscal year, and while the budget proposal does include a property tax rate increase one thing it does not include is a raise for county employees.

During a series of budget workshops and meetings, members of the Budget Committee looked at funding requests and made cuts to shape the proposed budget which will be debated by the full County Commission on Monday, July 16, at 6 p.m. in the Carter County Courthouse.

While the budget includes cuts to some areas, such as funding for outside service agencies, there are portions of the budget which the Committee said could not be cut.

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As with many other government agency budgets, employee salaries and benefits make up the most significant portion of the expenditures.

While the salaries and benefits portion of the budget increased this year, the proposed budget includes no raises for county employees. The county once again saw an increase in the rate it must pay for employee health insurance premiums, which accounts for the increased expense in the salaries and benefits portion of the budget.

According to documents obtained by the Elizabethton Star from the Carter County Finance Department, the overall proposed budget for the county as well as the county school system is $61,323,236. That figure includes the funding the school system receives from the state through the Basic Education Program (BEP) funding.

Of that overall $61,323,236 around 78 percent ($47,923,318) goes to pay employee benefits and salaries.

The only raises included in the proposed budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year are the state-mandated raises for elected and appointed officials. The overall cost to the county to pay for the mandated raises is more than $42,000, which is approximately one-half penny on the property tax rate. The salaries for the elected officials are rising between $3,400 and $4,400 depending on the office held. On average, the elected officials’ salaries increased between 4.36 percent and 4.66 percent in the coming year.

Salaries for elected and appointed officials range from $77,009 for the Carter County Administrator of Elections to $105,128.10 for the Carter County Mayor. The majority of the elected and appointed officials bring home salaries of $85,566. The Road Superintendent’s salary is a bit higher at $94,122 while the Carter County Sheriff’s salary is set at $100,122.

In Tennessee, the salaries of government employees are considered public records. According to information obtained by the Elizabethton Star from the Carter County Finance Department, the average salary for a Carter County employee working for the county, the solid waste program, or the Highway Department is $26,960.40. That figure does not include employees of the Carter County School System but does include employees of the Carter County Sheriff’s Office.

Carter County Finance Director Brad Burke said the salaries for county officials as well as certain managerial staff positions were eliminated from that calculation to get a better picture of the salary for the average employee.

According to the Finance Department information, there are a total of 270 employees for the county. Of those employees, 10 are listed with the Solid Waste Department, 40 with the Highway Department, and 220 as “county,” which includes employees at the various county offices as well as the Sheriff’s Department and Jail.

Employees working in the Solid Waste Department showed the lowest average salary, earning $21,695.21 per year, which equates to roughly $10.56 per hour.

Highway Department employees came in second with an average yearly salary of $26,026.14, equaling roughly $12.51 per hour.

General county employees showed the highest average salary, bringing in an average of $27,303.31, equating roughly to $12.93 per hour.