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Trousdale County’s Personnel Committee met last week to discuss potential updates to the way county employees are paid.

Commissioners discussed the desire to move the county payroll to a direct deposit system rather than issuing paper checks as is currently done.

“I know this is a topic we all want to see if we can get there, but the hurdle is how we pay the employees right now and the possible burden it might put on them,” said committee chairman Bill Fergusson. “Right now it causes us problems because there would be a time period where payment would be delayed.”

Commissioners also discussed moving the pay period for county employees to Sunday through Saturday, rather than the current Wednesday to Tuesday.

“To do direct deposit we would have to go accrued, which means you get paid two weeks after you submit that period’s timesheet,” said County Mayor Stephen Chambers. “We’ve been looking for ways to get around that.”

Chambers said if the county does go to direct deposit, it would take place no sooner than the start of the new fiscal year on July 1 to allow time for employees to plan accordingly.

The question was raised about offering a one-time bonus or a payroll advance equal to one paycheck to account for the gap caused by a move to direct deposit. If that were done, Chambers gave a rough estimate of $132,000 as the cost.

The mayor did point out that such a payment could be funded through CARES Act money received by the county as part of the initial COVID-19 relief bill. Trousdale County received nearly $1 million in grant funding from the federal government through the bill.

“I know it’s going to be hard for some who live paycheck to paycheck,” said commissioner Dwight Jewell. “But I don’t see that as being a reason not to do it when everyone knows it should have been done years ago.”

Committee members also voted to recommend that the full Commission extend the county’s sick leave policy regarding COVID-19. Last year the county provided a 10-day paid leave for those who either tested positive for coronavirus or had to quarantine. Employees are required to provide either a quarantine order or a doctor’s note advising them to self-isolate.

That policy ended on Dec. 31, but Chambers asked that it be renewed through the end of 2021.

“It’s an incentive for employees not to come in sick,” the mayor said.

The committee also voted to recommend proceeding with a wage study to allow the county to better set salary ranges for employees and remain competitive.

“They’ll talk to department heads and elected officials, create job descriptions for the positions and use those to figure what the wage range of these positions should be,” Chambers said.

The wage study would cost between $16,000 and $18,000, based on estimates received, the mayor added. It could be completed in time for budget hearings this year and could be utilized in setting the 2021-22 county budget.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-450-5756 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.

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