Budget Committee Withholds Raises

By Jacob E. Rosenbaum

Due to the recent abolition of the County’s pay scale, annual raises for Fentress County employees are no longer as certain as they have been in years past. Until now, each county employee was given an annual longevity raise based on the number of years they had worked for the County.

The County Commission, during last month’s meeting, decided to do away with the pay scale, the reason for this being that, as one commissioner put it, “only the Commission was beholden to it” and that it was not being followed by county offices and departments.

With the pay scale gone, and a new one yet to be put in place, whether or not county employees will see a raise this year, and if they do  how much it will be, hangs in the balance.

In the most recent meeting of the County’s Budget Committee, a number of county officeholders presented their budgets to the committee for approval. Many of the budgets submitted included requests for employee raises. Most officeholders requested a raise of 2% for their employees, in place of the traditional annual raises that had been the standard until last month. The Committee approved all but one (the Finance Department’s budget was rejected)  of the budgets that were submitted, but all requests for wage increases were denied across the board.

In an effort to explain the denial of employee raises at this time, various members of the budget committee expressed that they desired to be cautious, and that they would consider employee raises later on in the budget process. It was mentioned at multiple intervals during the meeting that approving different raise amounts for different offices/departments would be unfair and that any raises that were approved would need to take this into account.

This change in budgeting policy comes just weeks after an inquiry into the Finance Department’s payroll, the discarding of the pay scale, and the issuance of the Commission’s demand  of county offices for individual employee job descriptions and salaries as a requirement for budget approval.

This approach to employee salaries presents a significant change from how the County has handled such matters in the past, and has sparked a great deal of inquiry into who has the authority to set the rate of pay for County employees.

Read the rest of the story in this week’s Fentress Courier.