After months of wrangling about a possible reduction in the salary that Loudon County commissioners pay themselves, the board on Tuesday again dispatched the issue when a motion for a decrease died without a second assenting voice.
Commissioner Sharon Yarbrough initially made a recommendation to cut commissioner salaries in half, from $8,000 to $4,000, with Commissioner Don Miller seconding.
Miller then told commissioners that they should consider transportation costs and other out-of-pocket expenses. During the board's August workshop, Miller presented some 2009 data from the University of Tennessee County Technical Assistance Service that showed that only four counties in Tennessee - Knox, Shelby, Hamilton and Bradley - pay their commissioners more than Loudon. Eleven counties statewide pay more than $6,000 apiece.
During the meeting Tuesday, Miller proposed an amendment to Yarbrough's recommendation that would set commissioner salaries at 6 percent of the mayor's, which he said would have brought the compensation down to about $4,800.
Commission Chairman Roy Bledsoe asked for a second, but no commissioner agreed to the plan.
Miller said one reason he recommended reducing the salaries to 6 percent of the mayor's was because it would have put Loudon on level with counties of comparable size.
"The second reason was tying it to a percentage of the mayor's salary, then you don't have to wrestle with this question every year, every couple of years because the mayor's salary is set by the state periodically, whereas if you have a fixed number, every now and then you're going to have to reopen the issue again," Miller said.
Yarbrough said she did not second Miller's amendment to her motion because it did not reduce the salaries enough.
"I felt that it increased and defeated what my purpose was of showing a real effort," Yarbrough said. "And because the budget was so tight, and we did not give salary increases to most of the county employees, I felt that we needed to lead with our actions instead of paying ourselves, especially this high of a salary compared to what we should get according to our population."
She said she disagreed with the notion that commissioner salaries should be tied to the mayor's. "What I was most disappointed (with is) they didn't even discuss their rationale for not voting on it, and I know most of them didn't want to talk about it in the first place," Yarbrough said. "They just had hoped it would go away. That's probably a small battle, but it's still I felt was worthy again by leading by our actions."
The county budget committee earlier this summer recommended reducing salaries by half, but the full board did not vote on the proposal during its meeting to approve the budget in July. At the time, Commissioner Bob Franke made a motion to maintain the current salary until the board could discuss the issue during a workshop.
The commission should have made a final decision about the salaries months ago, Yarbrough said.
"What I think our mistake was is not dealing with it when it first came up and dealing with it instead of postponing it and thinking it would go away, and that's certainly not the way we should act," Yarbrough said. "If it's going to be 'no,' then it's 'no,' but we needed to address it."
In other business, the board:
● Nominated Roy Bledsoe and Earlena Maples as the chair and chair pro tempore respectively, which will be effective through August 2013.
● Approved changes to upcoming meeting dates to accommodate the vacations of County Mayor Estelle Herron and County Clerk Phyllis Youngblood. The Sept. 17 workshop has been cancelled. The scheduled Oct. 1 meeting was changed to a workshop, while the Oct. 15 workshop was changed to a regular meeting. The board will also hold a workshop on Oct. 22.
● Approved appointing Franke, Commissioner David Meers, Robert Anderson and Sue Bright to the Loudon County Agricultural Extension Committee.
● Approved appointing Franke, Betty Brown, James Webb, Dot Boruff, Dr. Barry Gordon and Ed Loy to the Loudon County Animal Control Advisory Committee.
● Approved appointing Brown, Yarbrough, Bledsoe, Commissioner Brian Jenkins and George Miller to the Loudon County Ethics Committee.
● Approved appointing James Thompson, Jim Curtis and Nancy Beaty to the Industrial Bond Board of Loudon County.
● Approved the election of the following notaries: Cynthia Noles, Billie Rich, Rebecca Nicholson, Billie Joan Lovelace, Michelle Cook, H. Bart Howell and M. Cory Alexander.