Council faces off over law enforcement pay plan (again) during budget vote at tonight’s meeting

The Metro Council will hear the second reading of the proposed 2022-23 budget at tonight’s meeting. There will be a public hearing at 6:15 p.m. (Lynchburg Times Photo)

LYNCHBURG, Tenn. — It’s been the topic of much social media debate and even a full page ad from a mayoral candidate. Tonight, Metro public safety officials and a few Metro Council members will square off over the second reading of the proposed 2022-23 Metro Budget and in particular, a plan to increase public safety salaries in Moore County to make our county more competitive with the surrounding counties.

Metro Budget discussions kicked off in late April with a series of Budget Committee meetings. The Metro Budget Committee, Metro Mayor Bonnie Lewis, and department heads spent nearly 20 hours in meetings working together to balance the list of our communities needs against it’s revenue. Budget Committee Chair Amy Cashion along with members Gordon Millsaps, John Taylor, Gerald Burnett, and Bradley Dye spent countless hours going over each line item, seeking explanations, and then making adjustments.

Increases in fuel, utilities, state mandated salary increases, and still unknown increases in county employee benefits were the main topic of the multiple, four hour Budget Committee meetings that took place prior to May 16. Budget Committee members also considered a pay scale proposal from Metro Sheriff Tyler Hatfield.

Besides the Budget Committee members, only two other Metro Council members attended any Budget Committee session. Metro Council member and Admin Captain Shane Taylor attended all four meetings as a representative for the Metro Sheriff’s Department. Metro Council member and mayoral candidate Keith Moses briefly attended the May 2 meeting. One other mayoral candidate, Leanne Durm, also attended two of the four meeting.

During the May meeting, the Metro Budget passed first reading by a 10-4 vote. Yes votes included Shane Taylor, John Taylor, Gerald Burnett, Bradley Dye, Gordon Millsaps, Amy Cashion, Jimmy Hammond, Houston Lindsey, Meghan Bailey, and Wayne Hawkins. No votes included Keith Moses, Sunny Rae Moorehead, Peggy Sue Blackburn, and Arvis Bobo. Denny Harder was absent from the meeting.

But during the weeks since two Metro Council members in particular have voiced public opposition to the proposed pay scale increase. On June 2, Metro Council member and mayoral candidate Keith Moses ran a full page ad in The Moore County News stating his opposition to giving the increases in a single budget year. Instead, Moses proposes splitting the increase between over the next “two or three fiscal years.”

Metro Council member Peggy Sue Blackburn argued on the Lynchburg Local Facebook page that, “the raises are not really going to the people that should be getting the most raise.” That accusation prompted a thorough rebuttal from Sheriff Tyler Hatfield on his official Facebook page.

“The statement of ‘upper management’ being the only ones who will benefit from raises is simply not true. I have evenly applied raises throughout this budget. The unfortunate realization is the numbers and speculations being published are coming from elected officials who did not attend budget meetings and have not reached out with questions. They have drawn their own conclusions and have published incorrect information,” he stated online.

His 11 paragraph explanation can be read by clicking here.

Tonight’s full agenda meeting is likely to be more of the same. In new business, the Council will consider adding the Juneteenth federal holiday to the Employee Handbook, a resolution to allow Metro Utilities to apply for TDEC ARP dollars, a request to close the square on September 10 for the annual Lynchburg Memorial 9/11 5K, and an Educational Support Policy for Moore County employees. There will also a request from the Metro Zoning Committee to amend Article V Section 5.041 to include “distillery by-products processing facility.”

The June 20 Metro Council meeting will start at 6:30 p.m. at the Lynchburg Legion Building located near the Lynchburg Pool. The Budget Committee will meet at 5:30 p.m. prior to the regular meeting. A public hearing for comments for or against the 2022-23 tax levy will take place at 6:15 p.m. This will be the public’s only opportunity to speak directly to the council. •

{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.}