The meeting was held following a special Knox County Finance Committee meeting Monday night to discuss the same matter. The change stems from a proposal during May’s Knox County Board meeting that would affect several elected positions.
During that meeting, Knox County Board Chair Greg Bacon took the blame for the maneuver, saying he felt it appropriate to bump the salaries of those elected functions.
“I didn’t want it to come from anybody else I wanted it to come from the Chairmanship,” said Bacon. “I wanted the Chair to be the responsible party for that.”
That resolution would have increased the salaries of the Knox County Clerk, Treasurer, 9th Judicial Circuit Clerk, and Sheriff, but the resolution was tabled for further consideration.
$10-thousand was the proposed initial bump, plus annual percentage salary increases. Several members of the Knox County Board, however, found problems with the fact that the increase was never taken through the County’s Finance Committee.
Members of the local AFSCME union protested the measure, saying anything more than the union receives would lead to consequences during future contract negotiations.
AFSCME Staff Representative Randy Lynch says the County should remember that the union gave them concessions during last year’s contract negotiations.
“To sit here and say that they deserve a huge raise, I disagree with,” says Lynch. “Yes they deserve a wage increase, I think you guys do a great job, you deserve a wage increase, but it shouldn’t be anything more than any other employee gets because it’s always been the County’s philosophy and the County’s best practice that whoever gets ‘this,’ gets ‘this’.”
Due to ongoing financial constraints facing the County, the Finance Committee Monday night recommended paring down those raises.
Out of that meeting came a resolution to increase the Sheriff’s salary by $1,500 per year for four years plus annual percentage increases. The other positions would receive $1,300 per year for four years plus annual percentage increases.
Knox County Board Member Lyle Johnson says the County should have an interest in keeping high quality representatives.
“I think to keep those kind of officials, we have to pay them something and I think we’re so far behind the counties around us and counties our size that we need to pay these people to keep them, we can’t expect them to continue to go further and further behind,” says Johnson.
Knox County was attempting to meet a state Board of Elections deadline that requires salaries to be set 180 days prior to an election – with the closest being November’s general election. Board members Tuesday night cited some of the same concerns union members discussed, including a relatively poor revenue outlook. The salaries were designed to make the positions comparable to similar counties.
County Board Member Paul Stewart says it was appropriate to consider a less generous raise.
“For fairness, I felt that they should have the same percentage raise,” says Stewart. “After all, you know, a one-and-a-half percentage raise on 60-thousand dollars is a lot more than one-and-a-half on 30-thousand.”
Confusion stemmed from an increase that would have allocated 30 days sick leave after an elected official left office. The item was removed from the resolution prior to the board’s vote.
A fourth year percentage increase was filled in for each of the positions after the county clarified the matter with the state Board of Elections.
Although County Treasurer Robin Davis said she can’t predict the future, she does anticipate the County being able to afford the salary increases.
The Board approved the resolution on an 11-3 vote.