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County continues work on budget

Warren County government continues its preparation for the 2021-22 fiscal year budget. 

Round two of the county Budget and Finance Committee was a two-hour session that ended with tentative approval for adding one new employee to the county’s payroll.

“As you can see, I’m asking for another person,” said maintenance employee Greg Bowdoin, bringing the department up to three. “I think I can save you a lot of money in contractual services. We have all kinds of issues that need to be fixed, but we need manpower. I’ve requested one more maintenance person to do more work in-house to save money on service calls.”

The county contracts out mowing, sewer maintenance, electrical, and other jobs.

Bowdoin requested an additional $30,000 in the budget for one full-time employee to be paid $13.50 an hour, a $2,000 salary increase for his other employee, and no salary increase for himself.

“Do you think you can complete all the contractual services with one additional person?” asked Commissioner Scott Rubley. 

Bowdoin replied, “I think I can.” 

“I want to see all our employees receive a raise,” said Commissioner Cole Taylor. “I don’t see hiring another person is going to help us do that. Making sure our employees receive a raise, that’s goal No. 1 for me.”

“I’m kind of like Cole,” added Commissioner Randy England. “We are pretty much between a rock and a hard place. If we are hiring someone based on reducing contractual services, can we come back next year and review it? I don’t want to hire someone who’s just going to lose their job.”

Bowdoin offered to pull the request from his budget.

County Executive Jimmy Haley urged commissioners to reconsider.

“We need additional maintenance personnel,” said Haley. “We need a succession plan within that department. If we were to lose Greg, we’d have to hire three people to replace him – that’s how much work he does.”

Budget and Finance Committee members approved the budget – minus $20,000 in utilities, due to cost savings in energy expected from the ESG program, and the $2,000 salary increase for the current employee.

During the first budget session, committee members pre-approved removal of all salary increase requests until after final budget numbers are known and a county-wide increase can be considered.

Election administrator Susie Davenport did offer a piece of good financial news.

“It doesn’t look like that last item on my budget is going to happen,” said Davenport, of $430,390 for a new voting system. “I know that pleases you as much as it does me. That being said, someday we will have to have new voting machines.” 

Davenport says the Tennessee General Assembly considers a bill almost annually that will require new voting systems, but she doesn’t expect this year’s bill to pass.

“If we can remove that, that’s almost half of what we need to cover the $1 million budget shortfall,” said Finance Department director Justin Cotten.  

Warren County’s projected ending fund balance for June 30, 2022 was $975,220 when budget discussions began. The state requires it to be $1.98 million, which is 10% of expenses.

Budget and Finance Committee members approved the Election Commission’s budget with the $430,390 new voting system included. Davenport will notify the committee, if it that line item can be removed.