Loudon County Commission OKs $63M budget

Hugh G. Willett knoxnews.com

LOUDON The Loudon County Commission passed a $63 million 2012-13 county budget Thursday night without having to raid the school building fund but it did come at the expense of requests from county employees and the Sheriff's Office.

The commission voted to fill a $1 million gap in the general operating fund by transferring money from the capital projects fund and moving 1 cent of property tax into the general fund.

Last week the commission budget committee reversed itself on a proposal that involved moving money from the school building fund to the general fund to cover an operating shortfall.

Before voting, the commission heard from Mathew Tinker, principal at Fort Loudoun Middle School. Tinker reminded the commission that the money remaining in the school building fund should be used to start phase two of the building program.

The approved budget did not include raises for county employees.

County employee Penny Glasgow asked commissioners that they reconsider the budget committee recommendations against the raises.

The commission also voted to increase the amount of employee paid medical insurance from 12 percent to 15 percent, increasing it by 3 percent each year until reaching 25 percent.

After the vote Glasgow said she was disappointed but determined to keep lobbying for increased wages and benefits for county employees.

A plea from Sheriff Tim Guider for extra personnel and 15 patrol cars also seemed to fall on deaf ears. Guider said the requests were made based on the needs of a department facing increasing crime.

"The scales are tipping in the perpetrators behalf," he said.

Loudon County resident Wayne Schnell called for cuts to the budget, including cuts to commissioners' pay and a county hiring freeze.

"All we hear is where can we get the money? Not where can we save and cut the budget in these austere times?" Schnell said.

In what could turn out to be a contentious issue in the future, the commission voted 7-3 not to follow a budget committee recommendation to cut commissioners' pay from $8,000 to $4,000 a year.

Commissioner Don Miller and Sharon Yarborough argued for the cut in salary based on the sacrifices other departments were making and because comparisons to other counties indicate the Loudon County commissioners are overpaid.

The commission voted to leave salaries as they were and to bring up the issue at another meeting.

The only other reversal of a budget committee recommendation involved the request from the county volunteer fire and rescue squad for an increase in funding. After the budget committee voted not to increase the squad's budget, commission decided to increase funding from $86,000 to $100,000.