County adopts $18.7 million budget

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After extensive discussion and debate, the county has adopted a budget for 2017.

The vote came during the Washington County Council’s meeting on Monday, Oct. 3.

Prior to the vote, the council considered increasing the plan commission director’s pay. Travis Elliott, who is also the county’s building inspector, is paid $3,000 and an increase to $4,000 was proposed. After some discussion, the council decided to leave his pay unchanged.

The council considered a pay increase for Tony Maranto, who attended the council’s September meeting to explain the additional maintenance duties he routinely performs. After some discussion, it was decided his pay should be increased by $2,000 to $29,050 in 2017.

The council also discussed the pay for Brent Miller, who is the second-in-command at the Washington County Sheriff’s Office with the rank of colonel. Sheriff Roger Newlon had asked that his pay be increased from $35,607 to $38,107.

“The pay that we’re paying our officers is grossly underfunded,” Council President Jonathan Spaulding said. He followed with a motion to increase Miller’s pay to $40,000.

A vote was held but it wasn’t unanimous in favor of the increase. Because the vote didn’t garner unanimous support, Mark Clark, the county’s attorney, explained the increase couldn’t pass because the proposed pay of $40,000 was more than what was advertised in the proposed 2017 budget.

John Revels made a motion to increase Miller’s pay to the budgeted amount of $38,107.

Spaulding noted deputies are paid up to $6,000 less than other regional departments. Revels said he would gladly pay more if the revenue allowed them to do so.

“You can’t pay what you don’t have coming in,” he said.

The council approved the increase to $38,107.

The council also considered whether council members and commissioners should get raises should the county provide across-the-board raises for 2017. Councilman David Hoar said the council has helped the county’s budget go from being in the red to it being closer to having money to carry over at the end of the year.

Spaulding said he believes the Salem council members are paid about double what county council members are paid. He also noted the council and commissioners have been excluded from pay raises in the past and that better pay helps to attract better candidates. He made a motion to include county council members and commissioners in the pay increase. He was seconded by Todd Ewen, who noted it is with the understanding county council members and commissioners shouldn’t see raises every year.

In a vote, Frank Nobles and John Revels opposed the increase.

Council members are paid $5,400 annually. Commissioners receive $16,533.

The council then considered if the county should give an across-the-board 2.75 percent pay increase to employees.

Spaulding said the county’s employees who work in emergency services should see more of an increase than other employees because they are underpaid and are seeing their already-difficult jobs become even more challenging.

Frank Nobles agreed, saying they offer a skilled service.

After some discussion, a vote was held for the across-the-board increase.

The council also approved longevity bonuses. The bonus is $60 per year with a cap of 20 years.

In a final vote, the council approved the 2017 budget of $18,728,755. It now goes to the state for review.

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