Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

June 18, 2013

Panel OKs raises for county employees

By Gary Nelson
Senior staff writer

CROSSVILLE — County employees may see a pay increase if the Cumberland County Commission approves the recommendations of the county's budget committee.

Earlier in budget discussions this year the budget committee addressed a one-step increase on the countywide pay scale that roughly amounts to a $600 annual pay increase. Those increases were built into the departmental budgets.

The committee decided by consensus that any county part-time employee should make $7.75 per hour and any who are under that rate will be increased to $7.75 per hour once the fiscal year 2013-'14 budget is approved.

Newly hired part-time employees will start at a rate of $7.75 per hour.

Thursday evening, the committee members also discussed "top outs" which are county employees who are over the 20-year countywide payscale and have been employed with the county for more than 20 years.

"I feel we need to take care of these people just like the rest of them," said 7th District commissioner Mike Harvel.

Harvel moved to give those employees a $600 per year increase.

Allen Foster, 4th District commissioner, supported the motion and it was unanimously approved.

"How much will this cost the county?" Harry Sabine, 1st District commissioner, asked.

Cumberland County Finance Director Nathan Brock said there are more than 30 county employees with more than 20 years of service so it would cost roughly $20,000 for those increases.

The committee then addressed part-time employees.

Harvel also moved to give county part-time employees a 20-cent per hour increase.

"We can't make it without our part-time employees. Especially in recycling," Harvel said.

Nancy Hyder, 2nd District commissioner, supported the motion and it was unanimously approved.

A heated debate erupted among commissioners regarding the county wide pay scale after commissioners began debating a nurse's position at the Cumberland County Jail.

Casey Cox, lead investigator with the sheriff's department, was representing the department because Sheriff Butch Burgess was unable to attend for health reasons.

Cox said there is a nurse at the jail who should be classified in the pay scale as an assistant director.

"This is a strong person and character that has done a lot for the county at the jail and has saved the county a lot of money. Really she's like the medical director over there and is over another nurse. She is way underpaid and I'd like to get her reclassified," Cox said. "I don't want to lose this person."

Harvel said, "If we need to get her on a slot on the scale OK, but we don't need to make her a director. If you do one, then you're going to all the other departments come up here and ask the same thing."

Earlier in the meeting it was reviewed that the current director at the county's animal shelter was not making a director's salary, which requires state licensing and certification to operate the facility.

The employee was reclassified as a director and given a salary increase in next year's budget up from an attendant's salary of $23,200 to a director at $32,500. Cumberland County Mayor Kenneth Carey Jr. also wrote a letter to the committee supporting the action, stating the license and certification required for the position and the employee was running the facility.

Jan McNeil, 5th District commissioner, agreed with Harvel and said, "Mike's right. If we start doing one, were going to have to do all of these or it's going to cause disagreements among the employees. Some aren't on the scale and others are."

Carmin Lynch, 9th District commissioner, agreed and said, "If you do one you have to look at them all. We have to look at the whole scale, take a look at it and slot people correctly."

Sonya Rimmer, 8th District commissioner, said the wage scale committee, a sub-committee of the budget committee, last year recommended rearranging the scale and reclassifying positions, but it was going to cost roughly $500,000 and the committee did not support doing so last year.

Sabine said, "Maybe you should get back together and make that recommendation again."

"The finance department has already been working late nights and weekends to get this budget put together. At this point to go and have to go through all of that would take an extremely long amount of time and effort. It would change everything and if you open up that project it could, well, it would be too much for the finance department. I'd say it would need to wait until we have a budget this year and then look at it after," Brock said.

Terry Carter, 6th District commissioner, made a motion to make a new pay scale committee after the budget was approved to look at the pay scale after the budget was approved for next year.

There was no second of Carter's motion.

"There has to be a process where you could do one without having to redo the entire payscale," Foster said.

"Well, maybe the wage scale committee ought to meet and come up with a solution," McNeil said.

Hyder made a motion to raise the nurse's pay to director status at $32,500, but there was no second.

"I'm not willing to redo and raise the whole pay scale," Harvel said. "But I don't want to leave anyone out in the cold."

"There's going to be a lot of people left out in the cold if you piece meal these positions in there one at a time like this. And if we're going to do that, then I'd like the floor in here after Casey (Cox). There's a bunch of my employees and in the county that are the same way," Brock said.

"I'm not against the animal shelter or anyone else for that matter. I just want to be able to treat this person fair and not lose them," Cox said.

Dave Hassler, 3rd District commissioner, then moved to rescind the action taken on the animal shelter attendant's raise and reclassification.

Carter supported the motion and it failed in a 5-2 vote.

"You can't keep somebody in that position over there (at the animal shelter). If we lose that person everything could be screwed up. You don't know much we have to go through over there to keep someone qualified in there," Harvel said.

Voting in favor were Hassler and Carter.

Voting against rescinding the action were Sabine, Foster, McNeil, Harvel and John Kinnunen, 9th District commissioner.

The committee did agree by consensus to have a committee formed again after the budget is passed to go through and look at the scale and reclassification of employees who are not in the right slots on the pay scale.

Although the salary increases are approved by the budget committee, they are a part of the entire 2013-'14 fiscal year budget, which must be approved by the full county commission. The committee hopes to have the full budget approved and sent to the county commission for a vote during the July monthly county commission meeting, or a special-called meeting.

The 2012-'13 fiscal year budget must be approved before any of the salary increases go into effect.