The Budget Committee of the Carter County Commission spent Monday evening hearing the requests from most of the officeholders in the courthouse. Most presented the committee with a budget that was similar to the current budget.
During the evening, the committee reviewed the requests from the offices covered in the General Fund and also the Health Department and the county tax-relief fund.
Most of the officeholders requested a 4 or 5 percent increase in the salaries of their employees. The one exception is Trustee Randal Lewis, who is seeking to change the funding for his employees. He told the committee he would like to have employee pay tied to the collection fees of his office. He is asking that 2 percent of the fees collected go to his employees. Finance Director Christa Byrd estimated that would amount to a 12.76 percent raise.
The 2017-18 budget will also see an increase in employee medical insurance, but not by the 20- to 40-percent increase that had been feared. Byrd said the county's current insurance carrier, Blue Cross-Blue Shield, has offered the same coverage for an increase of 8.65 percent.
Byrd called the Blue Cross offer a good rate, but Committee member John Lewis said he would like to look at competing companies and see if there might be a better rate.
Byrd said there was not much time left for a change in insurance carriers. She said a cheaper rate could always be found, but would it provide the same coverage? The committee voted 7-1 to recommend that Blue Cross-Blue Shield be retained for another year, with Lewis casting the lone vote against the motion.
One of the biggest increases by percentage of growth came from the Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Shelter, which would double last year's $200,000 total. Carter County Mayor Leon Humphrey had previously said that funding level was seriously below where it needed to be.
Next year's increase will be divided between the city of Elizabethton and Carter County. The shelter budget would also increase by $37,000 to fund an extra animal control officer.
Some officeholders are looking for ways to bring in additional revenue to the county. One example is the sheriff's department. Chief Deputy James Parrish said he is negotiating with the U.S. Marshal's Service to provide 50 beds in the Carter County Detention Center for federal prisoners.
Parrish said the state's payment to the county of $37 per day to house state prisoners does not cover the county's costs. The federal government would reimburse the county at a rate that is roughly twice the state level.
The Budget Committee could take no action on the budget Monday night because it was only a workshop session. The committee will be going through several weeks of hearings before the numbers begin to solidify into a recommended budget. But those numbers don't appear to be too far from the 2016-17 numbers.