Anderson County Council approves 2015-16 budget

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With employee raise

By Stan Welch

The Anderson County Council gave final approval to the 2015-2016 budget Tuesday night. The budget includes no tax increase, no increase in current county fees, and no road fee will be implemented.

The total budget, which includes substantial raises to law enforcement, emergency preparedness, 911 workers and detention center employees, as well as a thousand dollar raise for any other county employee who had not received a raise already during this budget year, totals just under $160 million.

A proposed tax increase of three mills was avoided when the decision to replace the dilapidated Bailes building and the adjacent Woolworth’s building with a new fifteen million dollar office building was postponed. The two buildings will still be demolished and the area behind the historic courthouse cleaned up, but county administrator Rusty Burns said that the location will likely draw some interest from the private sector. He added that the possibility of a private/public partnership might also exist.

For now, Burns said, the focus will be on relocating the voter registration and election commission offices. Burns added that the new budget ordinance also raised the minimum entry level salary for new employees to twenty thousand dollars per year. “We had new employees starting work at the animal shelter for sixteen thousand five hundred dollars. That was a major contributing factor to the high turnover rate in employees that we had” explained Burns.

“The Council previously had authorized a wage study which showed that Anderson County simply wasn’t competitive in our wage structure. It makes more sense to pay a better wage and save the cost of continuously replacing and retraining employees. So I am pretty proud of the decision by the Council to address this problem.”

The budget ordinance also abolished the separate millage that has been assigned to the Sheriff’s office since the days of Sheriff David Crenshaw.

Finance director Rita Davis, speaking with The Journal pointed out that the bonded indebtedness, which had peaked in 2009 at more than one hundred sixty eight dollars for every man woman and child in the county has been steadily reduced, and is currently at just over sixty nine dollars per capita. This allows the budget to be applied to more efficient uses than simply paying down debt.

The vote in favor of the budget was five to one, with District Seven Councilwoman Cindy Wilson opposed, while District One Councilman Frances Crowder was absent due to illness.