|County raises under scrutiny|
|Wednesday, September 26, 2012|
By PATRICK HALL
Employee raises in a handful of departments have come under scrutiny by some Wilson County Commissioners after they voted to not grant any employees an increase last month.
District 5 Commissioner Jerry McFarland, who was recently voted onto the commission’s Budget Committee, said he found department heads that have given out raises, which he said should not be given.
“It’s supposed to be a status quo year, with no raises, which means everyone gets paid the same as last year,” McFarland said.
McFarland said the areas where he’s found employee raises include the Wilson County Property Assessor’s office, Circuit Court Clerk, the Finance Department, Juvenile Court and Wilson County Election Commission.
The raises in those departments range from as low as 5 cents to as high as $4.65, and McFarland said he’s still looking to see if other department heads are giving out raises. McFarland noted the issue is a problem because the commission voted not to give any raises in August.
At the Aug. 27 meeting, the commission voted not to give employees raises through a property tax increase. The budget approved at that meeting was a status quo budget with the exception of a 7-cent property tax increase for the General Fund and to pay debt on school construction projects.
“This violates what we as a commission wanted to do,” McFarland said. “We couldn’t give our emergency services and law enforcement personnel raises, but these people are. Our system isn’t working right.”
McFarland noted some of the departments operate on fees collected, such as court clerks, and noted when they collect more than their budgeted expenditures those excess fees are returned to the county. He said if employees are receiving raises in those departments the county won’t receive as much in excess fees.
“I’ve been trying to figure out what is going on and to do my due diligence as a county commissioner,” McFarland said.
County Finance Director Aaron Maynard said department heads have always had the option of dividing up their payroll budget as they see fit, but referred to a “gentlemen’s agreement” that raises would only be given out to all employees at once.
“Each department has so much budgeted for payroll, and as long as they don’t exceed that payroll budget, they can divide it up as they choose,” Maynard said.
Maynard pointed out department officials cannot move money from a line item such as “Office Supplies” into its Payroll budget, but noted they can divide its payroll amount among its employees.
McFarland contends no employee should have received a raise when the commission voted to not raise property taxes to give the raise.
“I can’t speak for the commission’s intent, but I understand that point of view,” Maynard said.
Maynard said some of the raises were made effective July 1, 2012, and the Circuit Court raises were made effective on Sept. 1.
McFarland said he expects to find other raises that he feels should not have been given and added he will look into other areas that concern him as well.
“I’d like to know the overtime in those departments,” he said.
Maynard said the matter was sure to come up at the first meeting of the new Budget Committee scheduled for 7 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 4, at the Wilson County Courthouse at 228 East Main Street, Lebanon.