Had a few days off this week. Then got sick and went to one of those Urgent Care walk-in places, which are about as reliable as the flight schedules at McGhee Tyson Airport. My ear is killing me. Usually that happens when I’m in a county commission meeting. Not when I’m not in a meeting.
Anyway, checked in with the big guy, county Mayor Tim Burchett, to see what’s going on in his world. Death threats, budgets, Beck Center, whatever. (By the way, his power has been out for more than 24 hours. Hey, KUB, what’s up with that? I don’t recall him cutting any money to your budget.)
I was really curious about what was supposedly said to him. Threat-wise.
He wouldn’t budge, other than to say he “takes them (the threats) all serious but if you let it alter your life, then they win.” Then he added that “the guy will think he’s real tough when the deputies are dragging him out the door by his mullet.”
Still, I don’t know. I think it’s a good excuse to employ a kick-ass, armed entourage. Kind of like the last guy did. Except for the armed part. And the kick-ass part.
Anyhoo, I asked him what else was going on. Apparently, the administration is already working on next year’s budget.
“You don’t want to wait until the last minute,” Burchett said. “I don’t like surprises.”
That’s rich, actually. In other words, when I cut more stuff don’t come crying to me that you got bamboozled out of the blue. Nice.
He also touched on the “Employee Compensation Committee,” which the county commission on Monday will probably create. The idea is find a way to give raises to county employees next year, mostly focusing on deputies and general government workers who earn $40,000 or less a year.
Commission Chairman Mike Hammond and Vice Chairman Brad Anders, I believe, are the driving force behind the initiative, but it appears to have support from – at least –the majority of the commission.
The mayor was a somewhat cagey when I asked him his thoughts on raises, although I think he realizes something has to give between now and May 2012 when the commission approves the next budget.
“It’s fully within the county mayor’s job description that I’m supposed to be the one in charge of salaries,” he said. “They’ll make suggestions and we’ll compare (the wages) to the market based on job descriptions and duties. But, I really want an apples to apples comparison.”
Burchett, though, added that he’s worried about salary compression.
“If you just pay the lower end and don’t raise the middle and upper salaries, then people who have just started will be making the same as people who have been there almost 10 years,” he said. “But, we’ve got to come up with a plan.”
During our conversation, the mayor also addressed the potential audit of the Beck Cultural Exchange Center. The commission will again talk about this on Monday and could more than likely seek an audit of the dollars the county gave the organization during the past couple of years.
It can’t, however, force the center to turn over all its financial records, so the audit will never really provide a complete picture. So, really, what’s the point? And, even if it does come back all nice and pretty, it doesn’t matter. Does it?
Buchett says he’ll veto any attempt to restore some $138,000 that he cut this year from the program. Still, it’s worth a try, I suppose. That’s what the mayor is doing with Carter Elementary, which no-doubt will be a fun time for all when the school board meets in early July to talk about that.
Anyway, I’ve got to wrap this up before I bore you to death.
Here’s Burchett’s final words (for now) on Beck: “It never had anything to do with their inability to fill out a financial form or make a report. It had to do with what I think is appropriate on where the taxpayers’ dollars should be going. If I was after them, then I would have just zeroed them out. They got what all the other historical museums got. To say it’s unfair? They’ve received over 90 percent of their money from taxpayers. No other organization is like that, that the county gives money to.”