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Carter Budget Committee may be looking at two big studies involving employees

John Thompson • Oct 9, 2017 at 10:44 PM

ELIZABETHTON — New ways to provide for the county's employees were discussed by two County Commissioners during the Monday night meeting of the Budget Committee of the Carter County Commission.

Commission chairman Robert Acuff brought his recent findings on an alternative insurance plan for county employees, based on the successful direct primary care plan developed by Union County, North Carolina.

Also, Commissioner Ray Lyons brought his proposal for improving the salary structure now used for paying the county's employees.

Acuff first discussed the self-insurance proposal last week at the Health and Welfare Committee. He once again explained that he has discussed the Union County plan with its developer, the county's human resources executive director, Mark Watson.

Acuff said Union County has saved $1.2 million on its insurance costs since it initiated the plan. Acuff said it has also been financially beneficial to employees who want to place spouses or families on an insurance plan. He said only a handful of Carter County employees have family insurance, while many of the Union County employees were able to have family plans.

Union County has a population of 200,000 and is in the Charlotte metropolitan area, but Acuff said a smaller and more rural Eastern North Carolina county has recently converted to a similar plan. He said that county would not have a lengthy track record to study how that plan is going.

Acuff said the Health and Welfare Committee plans to hold a workshop with Watson in November to learn more about the plan. Acuff said he has traveled to Union County to learn more about the plan and found Watson to be very helpful and knowledgeable. Acuff said Watson is already making frequent weekend trips to the Tri-Cities because his son is a punter on the East Tennessee State University football team. He said the Bucs have two home games in November.

On the salary question, Lyons said the county needs a new salary analysis. He suggested that instead of paying a professional organization to conduct the analysis, the county could use the expertise of Miligan College and East Tennessee State University to conduct the analysis.

Lyons said the study should look at the jobs performed by the county's employees. He said it would be important to get the cooperation of the county's officeholders in conducting the analysis.

Lyons said one key to the analysis was finding pay inequities. Adjustments in pay should come from an adjustment pool made up of seed money taken from the Fund Balance.

Lyons said all forms of revenue should also be examined so that any increases would not come from taxpayers. Such income as fees and user taxes may be considered if it is lawful to use those funds for salaries.

In other matters, Chief Deputy James Parrish of the Carter County Sheriff's Department reported that he had recently worked out an agreement with the U.S. Marshals Service to house federal prisoners in the Carter County Detention Center.

Parrish said the federal government has agreed to reimburse the county at a much higher rate than the state provides for housing state prisoners.

Parrish said the federal agreement would provide the county a payment of $60 per day per prisoner. He said the state only pays $39 per day per prisoner. He said the agreement with the state calls for the county to house a minimum of 20 state prisoners.

Parrish recommended that once the federal agreement is in place, the number of state prisoners should be reduced to the minimum and the federal prisoners should fill the void.

Parrish said that would result in an additional annual revenue for the county of $400,000 to $500,000 above the amount the county would receive from the state, which is now budgeted at $900,000 per year.

In other matters, the committee re-elected Sonja Culler as chairwoman. Ross Garland was elected vice chairman. Neither had opposition.

The committee also met as the Nominations Committee and elected Al Meehan as chairman. L.C. Tester was chosen as vice chairman. Neither had oppostion. The committee also recommended that Wendell Treadway be named to replace the late Wayne Markland on the Civil Service Board.

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