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Sullivan County's officeholders, commissioners to get pay raise next week

J. H. Osborne • Jun 25, 2020 at 12:00 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan County’s officials are getting an automatic pay raise beginning July 1. The county’s budget is still under development. Discussion so far has not included any pay raise for county employees.

The raise for elected officials is thanks to a state-mandated pay increase for county constitutional officeholders. Sullivan County commissioners linked their own pay to that increase mechanism years ago. That vote set each of the 24 county commissioners’ pay at 7% of the county mayor’s.

County mayor is among the offices for which the state sets salaries, but does not fund. That’s left up to the county’s taxpayers — as well as funding for the corresponding increase in benefits.

According to information distributed online by the taxpayer-funded County Technical Assistance Service (CTAS), constitutional officeholders will be getting a 3.46% raise.

Tennessee law dictates a minimum level of pay for various officeholders, based on a county’s population. It also links the pay to the average annualized general increase in state employees’ salaries. State law provides for an automatic increase in the minimum salary each year based on the percentage increase given to state employees for the previous fiscal year — but the raise for county officials isn’t allowed to exceed 5%, even if the raise to state employees did.

In the past year, according to the information from CTAS, state employees received total average increases of 3.46% over the prior year.

To get to County Mayor Richard Venable’s payscale after the raise for the upcoming budget year, you first have to calculate the new pay levels for Sheriff Jeff Cassidy and Highway Commissioner Scott Murray. How much the county mayor’s salary rises depends on how much salaries for those officeholders increase. State law dictates that county mayors’ salaries be at least 5% higher than the salary for any other county constitutional officer.

State law also dictates that the sheriff’s salary and the highway commissioner’s salary be at least 10% more than that of “general officeholders,” which share the same pay level and include assessor of property, trustee, circuit court clerk, chancery court clerk, clerk and master, county clerk and register of deeds.

State law sets a minimum salary for administrator of elections that is lower than that of “general officeholders” listed above, but the Sullivan County Election Commission voted a few years ago to pay the administrator of elections the same salary as those elected officials.

For the current fiscal year, the salary for those offices is $101,611. It will increase to $105,127 on July 1, according to CTAS.

The new minimum salary for sheriff and highway commissioner under state law will be $115,640, according to CTAS.

But Cassidy’s pay exceeds the minimum because Sullivan County’s sheriff receives additional compensation — $6,835 — for operating multiple facilities, a practice that is permitted by state law. The same situation and same figures apply to the salary for Murray. That office, too, is provided additional compensation — $6,835 — because of what’s described as additional duties and responsibilities.

Including the supplement, Cassidy’s and Murray’s salaries are currently $118,607 (Cassidy receives an additional $600 in state pay). Beginning July 1, their salaries will increase to $122,475 (plus the extra $600 for Cassidy).

State law sets a minimum salary of $116,435 for county mayor beginning July 1. But Venable’s compensation will actually increase to $136,398.75 (including a $7,800 car allowance approved by the county’s Budget Committee a few years ago), up from $132,337.35 for the current budget year (including the car allowance).

That’s where the raise for county commissioners comes in. In 2007, the Sullivan County Commission approved raising commissioners’ salaries from $250 per month to $500 per month, with future raises linked to the county mayor’s salary. That vote said beginning July 1, 2008, each commissioner would be paid 7% of the county mayor’s salary.

This year, county commissioners (there are 24) are being paid $8,717.61 per year. On July 1, that will increase to $9,001.91.

Venable’s boost also, in turn, ups the pay of County Attorney Dan Street, whose salary — per resolution of the county commission — is set at 5% above that of the county mayor (not including the car allowance).

Street's salary beginning July 1 will be $135,028.69 (up from $130,764.22 this budget year).

The salary for administrator of elections is, by state law, set at 90% of the salary of the property assessor.

For the upcoming fiscal year, the minimum pay for Sullivan County Administrator of Elections Jason Booher is $94,614. Booher’s county pay for the current budget year is $101,611 — based on a vote by the Sullivan County Election Commission in 2015 to make the administrator’s pay match that of the county’s register of deeds — and Booher’s total compensation will increase on July 1 to $111,127 (including a $6,000 per year car allowance granted to him by the election commission earlier this year).

The county has one new department head’s salary to work into this year’s budget. The Sullivan County Commission approved the creation of the new position of veteran’s service officer, and the new hire began work April 1 with an annual salary of $40,000.

Figures cited as being from CTAS are available at www.ctas.tennessee.edu.

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