By Stan Welch
The Anderson County Council squabbled for a while Tuesday night before giving second reading approval to the budget for 2018-2019. The squabbling wasn’t so much about the contents of the budget as it was over one member’s view of the rest of the Council’s approach to the budget.
District Two Councilwoman Gracie Floyd made her annual pitch for employee raises, and found general support for the idea. She and other members acknowledged that Anderson salaries are no longer competitive, either with surrounding county governments or with private industry. Floyd bemoaned the inequity, saying that Anderson County has employees who are working full time and who are living below the poverty line.
While she acknowledged that administrative and clerical workers can elevate themselves by continuing their education and acquiring additional skills, she complained that there is no “sweeping 101 course to take” in order to improve one’s lot.
Councilwoman Cindy Wilson agreed that raises are overdue, but referred to a wage study the county has had conducted, and suggested that the Council wait for Councilman Tom Allen to report on the findings of that study.
Floyd also scolded the Council for not attending any of her unofficial meetings with the various department heads concerning the budget. “I have talked to every single department head and I have listened to their needs. I’m ashamed to say that not one of you chose to join me in those meetings.” She complained that the Council has held no budget workshops, to which Chairman Dunn retorted that the council has moved towards a process that utilizes the Council’s committees to establish the needs of various departments. Floyd continued to lobby for a budget workshop until Dunn finally challenged her to put her demand in the form of a motion, which she eventually did. Councilman Wooten provided a second to allow for discussion.
District Three Councilman Ray Graham took issue with the request, calling it “a slap in the face for all of us who have worked so hard, both council members and staff. I attend meeting after meeting, and I think I’m pretty well informed about this budget. To start over now with a workshop is ridiculous.” Dunn agreed, saying that the information is available for any council member who wants it.
The vote to schedule a workshop failed by a vote of 5-2. Dunn then made a motion to give second reading approval to the budget ordinance, reminding the members that any of them can propose amendments to the budget; an opportunity which Councilman Wooten immediately took advantage of.
He proposed a hiring freeze to be in effect until the results of the wage study can be implemented. Dunn then demonstrated the amendment process to Floyd who had challenged Dunn’s compliance with Roberts Rules at an earlier meeting. Only critical hires could be made, based on the administrator’s recommendation and with the full Council’s approval.
“Ms. Floyd, per Roberts’ Rules, I am going to propose an amendment to Mr. Wooten’s amendment that we exempt the sheriff’s department from this hiring freeze.”
Floyd asked for the floor, saying she wanted to discuss Wooten’s amendment. Dunn declined, explaining that his amendment to the amendment had to be dealt with first before the original amendment could be discussed. Floyd, as usual, simply proceeded to make her statement anyway.
Eventually, Dunn’s amendment was passed, followed by Wooten’s amendment, which also passed. Finally, the second reading of the amended budget was passed. All votes were 6-1 with Floyd opposed in each case.
The Council also gave second reading approval to an economic incentive package to a company known as Project Avocado, which will establish seven separate solar farm sites in the northern end of the county. The seven sites will comprise a total of 128 acres of solar power generation capacity, and will potentially provide 13.4 megawatts of power.
Four of the properties are located in County Council District 6, while one is in District Seven. The tracts of land currently generate a paltry $260.52 in tax income. Once the solar equipment is installed, the tax revenue from that equipment, as well as from the land itself, will total $77,306.