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County does more than OK budget

Caitlin Rickard • Updated Aug 27, 2013 at 4:51 PM

Though the Wilson County Commission’s big item up for approval Monday was the annual budget, several other items were also brought up and passed by the full commission.

With Commissioner Jim Bradshaw absent, the commission voted 23-1 to pass a program to provide assistance to low-income elderly residents of Wilson County. This would be for the 2013-14 fiscal year and provide funds to partially match the State Property Tax Relief Grant to any eligible property owner.

Commissioner Nathan Clariday was the lone dissenter. Clariday said he felt he had seen abuse of the program in other cases.

The commission also looked to establish an increase in the rate of compensation for commissioners.

Commissioner Frank Bush said he felt like amending the rules in order to include this was something the commission should seriously consider.

“We wouldn’t just be voting to give ourselves an increase, this would take the increase per year out of our hands and make it an amount determined by the state,” Bush said. “There is no other way under the mechanism of the law we can vote on an increase for ourselves.”

Bush said the beauty of this resolution would be that it takes the increase per year out of the commission’s hands and mandates whatever the state gives to elected officials, the state will give to county commissioners.

Bush said the money was insignificant as the annual effect was $5,000.

“This is all about fairness,” Bush said.

Commissioner Jeff Joines said he didn’t think anything about the proposed increase was fair.

“For several months we’ve been trying to come up with a pay plan for employees; a lot of folks worked hard on it, and I never heard one person in this chamber that said they were against it. But tonight we’re wanting to vote ourselves a pay plan,” Joines said. “I don’t understand why we would want to put ourselves on a pay plan, so I encourage everyone to vote this down until we can do for employees what we’re asking to do for ourselves.”

The resolution failed to pass by a margin of 22-2.

Commissioner Eugene Murray then brought up an amendment to include $99,000 in the budget to establish a tourism department after the commission voted to do away with it in December.

Commissioner Kenny Reich said he wasn’t against tourism, but he felt they should save the money until they get an Expo Center and then bring the department back up for discussion.

“I think we need to wait until it’s really needed,” Reich said.

Commissioner Mike Justice also echoed that sentiment, saying he wasn’t comfortable voting for a tourism department until they knew what they had, what they needed and had a specific job criteria.

Commissioner Clint Thomas said the commission needed to invest the money to make strides with tourism in the area and compete with surrounding areas.

The resolution failed to pass by a 15-9 margin.

The commission then voted 21-3 in favor of fixing the tax levy in Wilson County for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

The next commission meeting will be Sept. 16 at 7 p.m. at the Wilson County Courthouse in Lebanon.

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