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After heated discussion, Council moves forward with 2022-23 Metro Budget

Moore County Sheriff’s Deputy Douglas Carson speaks during Monday night’s public hearing as council members Shane Taylor and Sunny Rae Moorehead look on. Carson told the Council that it was time to, “stop kicking the can down the road” in regards to public safety pay scale increaes. (Lynchburg Times Photo)

LYNCHBURG, Tenn. — It’s the day before Memorial Day and Moore County Sheriff’s Deputy Arthur Barad has got his hands full. It’s a Saturday and he’s covering the county solo except for the rookie he’s training. First, he gets a call from nearby Lincoln County about a child abduction. Then, there’s a auto accident in the county with a fatality. Finally, deputies are asked to perform a welfare check. Unfortunately, deputies arrived to a DOA.

“That rookie helped save a kid, pulled a severely injured person out of a vehicle, and saw a dead body – all in the space of a couple of hours – and he gets paid $12.50 an hour and I make $14.29 an hour,” Deputy Barad said as he faced the audience. Deputy Barad was on of a half dozen public safety employees who spoke during the public hearing.

Moore County Reserve Deputy Jason Charlton said he’s been a part of the local sheriff’s department for 18 years and the pay scale has been an issue the whole time.

“Having an experienced local deputy who knows the local roads could mean seconds in an emergency and could literally save a life,” Charlton told the Council during the public hearing. “You’re literally pushing back against what averages to less than the cost of a Sundrop each month.”

Charlton’s remarks were accurate. During Budget Committee meeting, members determined that the new tax rate of 2.335 would represent an increase of $10 per year for a $100,000 home.

Deputy Douglas Carson, who’d just gotten off a 12 our shift patrolling Moore County, also stated that he understood the need to protect those on a fixed income.

“We’ve done the math and my grandmother, who lives on a fixes income, will pay exactly $1.16 more a month,” Deputy Carson told the crowd.

Prior to Monday night’s Public Hearing, the first reading of the Metro Budget passed by a 10-4 margin with Shane Taylor, John Taylor, Gerald Burnett, Bradley Dye, Gordon Millsaps, Amy Cashion, Jimmy Hammond, Houston Lindsey, Meghan Bailey, and Wayne Hawkins voting yes and Keith Moses, Sunny Rae Moorehead, Peggy Sue Blackburn, and Arvis Bobo voting no. Denny Harder was absent from the May meeting. {To read our complete coverage of the first vote, click here.}

Things get heated during open discussion

Things did get a little heated during Monday’s meeting. Metro Mayor Lewis spoke on behalf of the public safety pay increases. She also addressed a criticism lobbied at her from Metro Council member and mayoral candidate Keith Moses in print. In a June 2 ad in the Moore County News, Moses stated that, “Due to the large numbers in the proposed budget and the past spending that has wiped out the County’s savings, a tax increase this fall in inevitable.”

According to publicly available audit information provided by the Tennessee Comptroller’s office, Metro Moore County has enjoyed a fund balance (savings balance) of over $1 million during Mayor Lewis’s entire term in office. In 2021, the audit books reflect a $1,228,844 surplus. In fiscal 2020, Moore County ended the year with a $1,327,904 fund balance. In fiscal 2019, that fund balance total was $1,143,457. Mayor Lewis took office in September 2018.

“You’ve accused me of have a spending problem,” Mayor Lewis said and she handed Moses an audit book. “Can you read me that number?”

“$1,228,844,” Moses replied on the record.

“That’s how much money we had left over at the end of the most recent year,” she said.

Moses reiterated that he did not oppose the public safety pay increases. Instead, he opposed implementing those increases in a single budget year. It’s a point with which Sunny Rae Moorehead stated she agreed.

Monday night’s votes fell along the same lines as the previous month’s meeting with Keith Moses, Peggy Sue Blackburn, Sunny Rae Moorehead, and Arvis Bobo voting against the budget. The second reading passed by an 11-4 margin with Shane Taylor, John Taylor, Gerald Burnett, Bradley Dye, Gordon Millsaps, Amy Cashion, Jimmy Hammond, Houston Lindsey, Meghan Bailey, Denning Harder, and Wayne Hawkins voting yes.

The Tennessee Comptroller’s office encourages all counties and metros to submit an approved budget by no later than the end of the fiscal year, which takes place on June 30. Since an approved budget requires three separate readings by the Metro Council, they will meet in special session on Monday, June 27 to vote on the 2022-23 Metro Budget for a final time. •

{The Lynchburg Times is the only locally-owned newspaper in Lynchburg and also the only woman-owned newspaper in Tennessee. We cover Metro Moore County government, Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Nearest Green Distillery, Tims Ford State Park, Motlow State Community College, Moore County High School, Moore County Middle School, Lynchburg Elementary, Raider Sports, plus regional and state news.}

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