Pay raises sought for Marshall employees

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

By Clint Confehr

Senior Staff Writer

Leaders of Marshall County offices have been asking commissioners on the various committees to support their requests for employee pay raises.

"Respectfully," Sheriff Norman Dalton repeatedly said as he made points to substantiate his request to increase pay, add an officer here and there for better protection, and to buy used Ford Crown Victoria patrol cars because they're bigger than Chevrolet cruisers.

County budget committeemen are mostly deferring a decision on pay raises and therefore the entire budget requests from department leaders as Commissioner Mickey King explained they should wait to see the larger picture.

"Until we know what we have, we don't know what we can do," King said.

Some revenue questions haven't been answered yet. Property Assessor Linda Haislip hasn't announced the state's calculation on how reappraisal has affected the tax base and therefore an adjusted tax rate.

"My employees need a raise," Trustee Marilyn Ervin said, adding that she, too, needs new equipment.

Her request was respectful, but with humor and a gentle reminder on alternatives.

"My equipment is obsolete," Ervin said. "I think some of it came over on the Mayflower."

She needs county funding for part-time help next winter when taxes are being paid.

Ervin paid a "volunteer" out of her "own pocket" for that help last winter, she said.

Then there's her friendly reminder.

"There is something called a salary suit," Ervin said.

County officials who can justify a need might successfully file a civil complaint in Chancery Court where commissioners who've not adequately funded a department become defendants, accused of failing to properly fund county operations.

"Unfortunately," Ervin said, "nobody wins that."

Such litigation is filed more often when a sheriff is in a financial bind as he faces state or federal recommendations on how to avoid inmate complaints about cruel and unusual punishment.

Ervin knows it's been hard on taxpayers.

"I see them jump," the trustee said. "They're hurting."

Library Director Jan Allen has submitted a budget that includes funding for a branch library in Chapel Hill.

Allen's budget request is different in another way. She's one of the few who've not requested a pay raise for employees.

But the increased cost for a branch library caught King's attention as he noted, "This is a maintenance-of-effort budget," meaning "Whatever you give them, you continue to give them."

In other words, funding can't be reduced.

Chapel Hill's Board of Mayor and Aldermen has requested a branch library and it's offered to help with the funding by providing a location and other basic costs.

Allen can continue to operate the library on an unchanged budget, she said. However, she can't expand to Chapel Hill without more funding.

Ultimately, the county's budget committee is recommending a spending plan for the library that's the same as it was last year. There will be a maintenance of effort in the amount of funding.

There are other local government spending plans that have been designated maintenance-of-effort budgets.

One of the most prominent departments that come with the maintenance-of-effort requirement is the school system. Its budget hasn't been filed yet. School system budgets are typically the largest part of a county budget.