BY DAVID FISHER
DRESDEN (June 29) — During the Tuesday, June 29, Weakley County Commission meeting, members of the Finance, Ways and Means Committee recommended commissioners approve the FY 2021-2022 budget, when it convenes in regular session on Thursday, July 29. By that time, all of the revenue and expenditure information needed to close out the books for fiscal year ending June 30, 2021, will be available. This data will be integrated into the FY 2021-2022 budget, which includes pay increases for county employees, building upgrades, equipment purchases – all without a tax increase.
The proposed budget allocates a sufficient amount of money to give General Fund employees below the pay grade of director a 6.0 percent salary hike, with department heads determining how to disburse these funds among the members of their staff, based on job performance or other criteria.
During recent budget meetings, the Finance, Ways and Means Committee initially called for a 5.0 percent salary increase, but after receiving updated revenue figures and recalculating the amount of funding available for FY 2021-2022, committee members voted to recommend the commission give General Fund employees a 6.0 percent pay hike.
Commissioner Eric Owen, who serves as Chairman of the Finance, Ways and Means Committee, said the 6.0 percent increase in pay would help make up for those workers not receiving a pay raise during FY 2020-2021. He noted the only raises given to county employees in FY 2020-2021 were mandated by the state. This included elected officials and department heads.
Among those county employees recommended to receive a 6.0 percent pay hike are those working in the following offices: county clerk, circuit/general sessions court clerk, county mayor’s office (executive assistant), property assessor, register of deeds, finance department, sheriff’s department (deputies and jailers), Weakley County Library, and the election office.
Exceptions to the 6.0 percent raises include elected officials. Weakley County Mayor Jake Bynum explained elected officials don’t qualify for the 6.0 percent raise; instead, the Tennessee Legislature has mandated they will receive a 2.0 percent pay increase. This is 1.46 percent less than the 3.46 percent raise they were given last year.
Owens stated the School Department is in a different category, and teachers were given approximately 1.8 percent about halfway through FY 2020-2021.
According to Director of Schools Randy Frazier, certified teachers are going to receive a state-mandated 4.0 percent salary hike. Part of the money required for these pay increases will come from state funds, in accordance with a Department of Education funding formula, and the rest from county revenues.
All non-certified School Department employees are slated to receive a 5.0 percent pay hike. This includes: secretaries, educational assistants, cafeteria staff, mechanics, and after-school workers. Frazier noted non-certified employees will receive a greater percent pay increase, due to only being given one-time bonuses rather than raises last year.
According to Frazier, bus drivers, who are part-time employees, are paid by the day, based on the length of their routes. The drivers will receive $71, $74 or $76 per day, which represents a $10 pay hike per category.
In accordance with Emergency 911 Director Christy Fulcher’s recommendation, all 911 employees will receive salary adjustments instead of a 6.0 percent pay increase. She explained she is increasing dispatcher’s pay from $12 to $14 per hour, in an effort to keep her employees from going to higher paying jobs elsewhere. Fulcher stated Weakley County 911 dispatchers are currently receiving the lowest pay of any neighboring county and they work 12-hour shifts, holidays, nights and weekends.
The committee also recommended the commission grant a request by Weakley County Office on Aging Director Gail Rogers to increase the salaries of in-home workers, which includes nursing and housekeeping employees, from $11 per hour to $12 per hour. Rogers argues it is becoming more and more difficult to hire and retain employees because the salaries are too low. Mayor Bynum said there is money in the budget to cover the salary increase, and the Northwest Tennessee Development District is billed for expenditures at no cost to local taxpayers. The salary increase goes into effect for the month of June 2021 and continues in FY 2021-2022. “There is a potential some of these Weakley County Office on Aging employees may also receive a 6.0 percent salary increase,” Mayor Bynum said.
Additionally, the committee recommended Highway Department employees receive the pay hikes requested by Highway Supervisor Charles Ross, which is different for each job position, but amounts to approximately 5.0 percent.
General Session judges will receive a 0.12 percent cost of living pay adjustment, as mandated by the state.
Mayor Bynum states the county funds a portion Ag Department employees’ salaries, which are set by the University of Tennessee.
Concerning the Weakley County Health Department, the mayor said, “We pay a portion of the cost for operating the Health Department, but their staff’s salaries are reimbursed by the state.”
Property Tax Rate
The proposed budget leaves the tax rate unchanged at $1.9727 per $100 of assessed value.
The budget is based on estimated total revenues of $587,193,420, with each cent on the tax rate equaling $55,683 (95 percent of the tax rate). The amount allocated to each governmental fund is as follows:
General Fund: tax rate = $0.6632; tax levee = $3,894,300
Highway Fund: tax rate = $0.1915; tax levee = $1,124,500
General Purpose School Fund: tax rate = $0.6480; tax levee = $3,805,000
Debt Service Fund: tax rate = $0.4700; tax levee = $2,759,800
Total: tax rate = $1.9727; tax levee = $11,583,600
Projected tax revenues and expenditures will be discussed at the next commission meeting and it is expected the budget will be approved on first reading. A public hearing and approval of the budget on second reading at the commission’s following meeting are necessary before the FY 2021-2022 budget can be finalized.
Appointments and Retirements
The commission voted unanimously to appoint Courtney McMinn as the new Circuit Court Clerk for Weakley County. McMinn, who was the only nominee for the position, will complete the term of Jenny Killebrew, who resigned to spend more time with her family. The term will end in August 2022. McMinn served as Circuit Court Judge Jeff Parham’s Judicial Assistant since 2014, and prior to that, was Judge Parham’s Legal Administrative Assistant. McMinn was sworn in on Thursday.
McMinn stated she appreciates the commission appointing her to the post, which she considers to be a great career opportunity.
Commissioner James Westbrook, Jr. complimented the quality of work done by the courthouse staff. He said McMinn has big shoes to fill, but he is confident she can do the job.
The mayor announced Weakley County Election Commission Deputy AOE Ricka McDonald was retiring, effective June 30, and thanked her for her service to the voters of Weakley County.
In other business, Mayor Bynum announced District 5 Commissioner Steven Totty has resigned after accepting the Administrator’s position at Weakley County Rehab and Nursing Center, following the retirement of David McBride. A Commissioner for District 5 will be appointed during the commission’s July 29 meeting.
Other appointments made Tuesday are as follows:
Industrial Development Board: Donnie Davis, Adam Adkins and K.K. (Anikke) Brown.
Library Board: Thomas Moore and Faye Kendall.
Board of Public Utilities: Wendell Verdell and David Lamb.
Economic Development Board: Tommy Legins.
Weakley County Commission Chaplain: Pastor Brad Jordan – Dresden First United Methodist Church.
Another adjustment to the budget requested by Mayor Bynum involves increasing the mayor’s office staff from one to two employees. In addition to Khirsty-Rhe Janse Tiffner, who serves as the county’s communications director and as the county mayor’s executive assistant, Bynum argued a second full-time employee is needed to keep up with the workload. If the additional position is approved, the salary for the new employee will be included in the County Mayor’s budget for FY 2021-2022.
Ratification of Private Chapter No. 22
The commission voted to ratify Private Chapter No. 22, regarding collection of building permits.
It amends the wording by striking the term “director of emergency services” and replacing it with “county trustee.”
The county trustee is now required to collect $25 for each building permit fee and deposit the proceeds in the Weakley County Highway Department Fund.
Examples of some of the major capital expenditures in the FY 2021-2022 budget include capital projects proposed in the Highway Department, which amounts to $551,046 for bridge construction, $400,000 for highway equipment, and $752,418 for state aid projects, which total $1,703,464.
Another major capital expenditure involves replacing the roof at the Sheriff’s Department and Jail at a cost of $300,000.
These and several other proposed projects, outlined in the FY 2021-2022 budget, will be considered at the next commission meeting.
American Rescue Plan Funding
According to Mayor Bynum, American Rescue Plan Funding (ARPF) will give the county a financial boost in several areas. The mayor said the funds will be disbursed to Weakley County Government in two payments of $3,236,786 each, for a total of $6,473,573.
Bynum stated the first half of the money, totaling $3,236,786.50, has been allocated, but the state comptroller is advising county governments not to spend it until it is determined what the funds can be spent for. He said the federal government would provide guidance on how these funds can be spent. Bynum stated the money must be kept in a separate fund and is not included in the General Fund budget. The remaining $3,236,786.50 will be received in the second half of 2022, for a total of $6,473,573.
Frazier said some of the ARPF money could be spent on infrastructure, which would normally come out of debt service, and will help maintain a healthy fund balance for capital projects. Frazier stated the School Department can use the ARPF money to upgrade HVAC systems, add classrooms, repair roofs, and for other capital projects.
A breakdown of recommended expenditures, if approved by the state, is as follows:
Broadband Expansion = $6,000,000
In-Take Scanner (Sheriff’s Department) = $175,000
Sheriff’s Department Software Upgrade = $44,600
Fire Department Contribution (divided among five departments) = $40,000
Dolly Parton Reading Railroad = $6,000
Weakley County Prevention Coalition = $2,000
Weakley County Carl Perkins = $2,500
Total Expenditures = $6,270,100
Remaining Balance = $203,473
FY 2020-2021 Budget Resolutions
The commission approved several year-end budget resolutions, which transfers funds where needed to balance the county’s budget for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2021.
Under special recognitions, Weakley County Mayor Jake Bynum and members of the Weakley County Commission congratulated Deputy Fire Chief Kory Green for earning the Weakley County Medal of Valor for his tireless work, at great risk to himself, during the May 4 storm. His leadership and experience were indispensable in the County’s recovery effort, saving lives and property on that day. (See separate article, “Green Awarded Medal of Valor.”
The next meeting of the Weakley County Commission is Thursday, July 29, starting at 5:30 p.m.