Budget reimbursement, committee placement debated during Rules and Bylaws

Commissioners held their Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting, among others, in the Workforce Development complex for the first time Tuesday evening, and Rules and Bylaws in particular discussed several key policy changes, including compensation to the Budget Committee for the dozen or so Budget hearings it holds each spring.

Commissioners are paid roughly $50 per committee meeting they attend, but this does not include the dozen or so budget hearings Budget holds every year as part of the budget process.

“Our job is continuous,” Brad Johnson said. “If you expend time for the benefit of this county, you should be compensated.”

Ginger Holdren said she did not disagree with the reasoning, but said the move would make Budget committee members the highest paid commissioners in Carter County. This is a concern, she said, because Budget already carries a lot of procedural power in the county. The vast majority of funding requests for just about anything in the county has to go through them before it can ever reach the full commission floor.

The motion passed unanimously, but the conversation then shifted to ways to address Holdren’s concern.

“They are already considered, by most, to be the premier committees,” Holdren said of Budget and Nominating. “They are the ones people fight to be on.”

Currently, commissioners decide among their fellow district representatives to decide which of three committee blocks they want. Block A includes Budget and Nominating. Though commissioners can swap out each of their four years, in practice, the committee said, many commissioners get comfortable and stay on the same committee for many years.

“I think we ask the county attorney to look at limiting time that an individual can serve on a committee,” Robert Acuff said.

Holdren said when she first became a commissioner, she had a strong interest in serving on Budget.

“I looked at the standing committees, and well, I am a numbers girl,” Holdren said. “I did not know how passionately my colleague felt about his position, so […] I decided not to do that. It was my choice not to do that.”

Acuff said everyone who wants to serve on a committee deserves the chance to do so.

Mike Hill agreed it was needed in some form, but expressed concerns about such a motion, saying if the health care discussions had happened right in the middle of a board member change like that, it would not have worked out as well as it did.

“We would not have saved the county a quarter of a million dollars,” Hill said.

The board officially made a motion to force commissioners to swap committee blocks if they have served in that same block for two of their four years, consecutive or not. Hill was the only dissenting vote on the motion.

Austin Jaynes then made a motion to restrict the number of county employees on Budget to three, but the committee shelved the motion considering the complications with the new rotation system and the possible redistricting.

The commissioners also said, for the time being, all Block B meetings, including Rules and Bylaws, Buildings and Grounds, Health and Welfare and Law Enforcement, will take place at the Workforce Development complex, located at 386 TN-91 in Elizabethton. The meeting time of 6 p.m. on the first Tuesday of the month has not changed.

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