County adopts no tax increase budget

Commission cuts Mayor’s chief of staff funding

Monday evening, the Anderson County Commission approved and adopted a balanced budget that includes no property tax increase for the 2018 fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Commissioners held a special-called meeting last Tuesday on the budget where they approved the budget as amended, with the expectation that changes would be made to the county’s Emergency Medical Services department’s budget proposal by the time commission met on Monday.

ACEMS Director Nathan Sweet presented a budget to commission last Tuesday proposing a temporary rate increase for EMS.

The rate increase would only affect roughly 20 percent of payers, Sweet said, adding that the ones to be affected by the increase would be those without Medicare who pay through private insurance or for medical expenses out of pocket.

If commissioners voted not to approve the rate increase, EMS would be forced to cut at least six employees from the department, Sweet explained, which would also restrict the number of available ambulances in use.

Commissioners voted to approve the temporary rate increase for EMS for one year until it was back on solid financial footing, but with the expectation that once the department’s finances improved, commission could vote to change the rates back to their current levels.

The first motion by commission was to rescind the rate increase commission voted for last Tuesday in the special-called meeting on the budget and approve the budget as amended, but the motion failed with a tied vote of eight commissioners voting to rescind and eight voting against rescinding the rate increase.

The motion was then made to approve the budget as amended with the temporary rate increase for EMS and the motion was passed with 12 commissioners voting in favor of it and 4 voting “no.”

Commission also voted to approve cutting $66,687 from the mayor’s budget and transferring that money to go to ACEMS.

In an 11-5 vote, commission voted to cut the mayor’s chief of staff position from her budget.

Richard Burroughs served as Frank’s chief of staff from the time Frank was elected mayor in 2012. Burroughs was also working part-time as the county’s storm water coordinator.

According to Anderson County Commissioner Steve Mead (Dist. 6), Burroughs was being paid $66, 687 a year, including benefits.

Mead asserted that since the county switched from using the 1957 financial act to the 1981 financial management system last year that the mayor’s responsibilities have been reduced to the point that funding a chief of staff is no longer necessary or appropriate in light of the dire financial straits ACEMS is currently experiencing.

Mead pointed out that the money for the chief of staff position would be better spent on ACEMS.

The matter was originally taken up last Tuesday in the special-called session, but failed by not getting enough votes.

Three commissioners were absent Tuesday, but all commissioners were present for the commission meeting on Monday, which opened up the opportunity to bring up the issue again.

Mead seized the opportunity and made a motion to delete from the approved budget the line item for the mayor’s chief of staff in her budget “and all associated tax and fringe calculations” which totalled $66, 687.

Frank maintained that she had stayed within her budget, and had actually saved the county money since being elected mayor.

She asserted that with the restructuring of the departments under her purview she has been “able to do more with less” of the county’s money.

She also pointed out that she learned from TDEC officials that the county needs a full-time storm water coordinator instead of a part-time coordinator to fulfill state mandates, and that Burroughs was doing the work on a part-time basis.

If the commission voted “yes” to approve Mead’s motion to eliminate the chief of staff from the mayor’s budget, Frank argued there would be no one to do storm water work for the county.

In response to the comments from commissioners that Burroughs had not acted as “a team player” in his term as mayor’s chief of staff and storm water coordinator for the county, Frank responded by saying that Burroughs has always “been very supportive” in his role and highly capable, especially in issues that required technical expertise.

“I consider him invaluable,” stated Frank.

To Frank’s response, Mead countered that the responsibilities performed by Burroughs as county storm coordinator could be done “in less expensive ways” which would cost the county less money.