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Anderson County Hits Solid Triple with 2016 Budget

By Greg Wilson/Anderson Observer

It has been nearly a week since Anderson County Council passed the budget for the coming fiscal year, and after looking carefully at the details in the final document over the past week, it looks like council hit a solid triple this year.

No new taxes or fees, that should elate many voters and citizens who are too lazy/apathetic to vote, almost adequate funding for repairing and maintaining our roads and, finally, meaningful raises for law enforcement officers and 911 dispatch operators.

Anderson County Administrator Rusty Burns and the council members are to be commended for their furious race to the finish line on this budget, which was nothing short of a mess following a second reading which no one seemed to support.

Thank your council person for working in a progressive fashion this year. After years of inadequate funding, many of our roads were headed toward a place where replacement would be cheaper than repair. No longer. While still about $1.5 million short of the perfect funding level, this year's $5.5 million for roads is the best we’ve seen in a very long time.

Also give them a high five for finally recognizing that our men and women who wear badges and answer the “every call could be life or death” phones at the 911 dispatch center, deserved far better than Anderson County has provided for nearly a decade. The raises put in place not only bring starting salaries up close to a level of other counties, but provide substantial raises to our veteran folks who have labored in a severely underpaid state for nearly a decade. The move will also help stop the bleeding of our best front line public servants, and for that we can all sleep easier.

Finally, the only real quibble I have with the budget is it lacks similar raises for long-time employees of the county who are not in the law enforcement division. Granted, those at the bottom of the ladder, some of whom were making less than $18,000 per year, will see a minimum salary of $20,000. Others will benefit from the realignment of pay grades, which is also a good thing, but many of those who have served the county well for years are left with a raise of less than $100 per month after watching their budgets (and sometimes staffs) shrink dramatically over the austere budgets since 2008.

It is likely those additional funds would have required a 2-mil tax hike this year, but that would still be a good investment. Most Andersonians would be willing to pay between $4-$20 a year to see their neighbors who have worked long and well for Anderson County be fairly compensated for their sacrifices and hard work. This oversight could also impact hiring top-notch folks from outside the county to fill future openings.

This misfire is all that keeps this year’s budget from being an uncontested home run.

But a solid triple is a good thing, one that shows progress and a vision for the future of Anderson County. Good work, folks.

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