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Some commissioners have second thoughts about surrendering pay

Will Warren County commissioners take the final step required to remove their committee meeting pay of $25 per meeting? 

“I have learned this would hurt some of our commissioners,” said Commissioner Tommy Savage. “Some of them have decided if they aren’t getting paid, they would not attend the meetings. Some of these are good, smart people. I would really hate to see that happen.”

The comment was made during a Financial Management Committee meeting held Thursday to consider a resolution to make that change final, a step Finance Department director Justin Cotten said is required now that the county’s fiscal year budget for 2019-20 was set without funding for committee pay.

“This was recreated during the budget process to remove commissioner pay for committee meetings,” said Cotten. “By state statute, we have to pay commissioners a certain amount of money as a salary. The committee meeting pay is optional.”

Commissioner Gary Martin voiced his disproval for removing committee pay.

“I think it’s a bad idea myself,” said Martin, who later added, “I’m willing to give as much as anybody, but I don’t think we should give our pay up on a whim. That’s just ridiculous.”

Within the budget is funding to cover the $260 a month that each commissioner is paid. A transfer of funds will be needed to cover a $22,000 shortfall – estimated by Cotten – if commissioners restore their salaries because funding in the budget was removed prior to the resolution being considered.

Committee member Road Superintendent Levie Glenn stated he was “uncomfortable” voting on commissioner meeting pay and asked why the resolution was not presented to commissioners prior to the budget begin considered so if it failed, funding could be restored in the budget.

“I don’t believe I was aware that one was needed,” said Cotten.

County Executive Jimmy Haley said consideration could be given to increasing the pay to $30 per committee meeting.

“According to TCA, we are in the fourth class so $30 is like the minimum that you can actually pay,” said Haley, who later added, “If we continue commission pay, it looks like by TCA that we’ll have to up it, it looks like, to $30. Twenty-five dollars does not meet the class.”

TCA code outlines pay for “sessions” and does not specifically mention committee meetings.

Cotten asked, “Is it legal counsel’s opinion that committee meetings are considered a session?”

“That’s up for debate, whether it is or not,” said Haley. 

A vote to send the resolution that will remove committee pay to the Warren County Commission ended with two voting yes, two voting no, and two abstaining. Haley and Commissioner Richard Grissom approved, Savage and Martin disapproved, and Commissioner Scott Rubley and Glenn abstained. 

The measure will be presented to the Warren County Commission during its August session.