Surgoinsville Vice Mayor insists 2021-2022 town budget include employee raises

Surgoinsville Vice Mayor Bob Jarnigan (left) told the BMA that he will not vote in favor of the final 2021-2022 town budget unless it includes a raise for the town’s employees. Mayor Merrell Graham (right), suggested that the board work to include a raise in the second draft of the budget.

Though the Surgoinsville Board of Mayor and Aldermen did approve the first reading of the proposed 2021-2022 town budget at their May 10 meeting, Vice Mayor Bob Jarnigan noted that he will not vote for the final proposed budget unless money is allotted for employee raises.

When Mayor Merrell Graham explained that there was currently no money allotted in the budget for these raises, Jarnigan replied, “there’s got to be.”

Jarnigan explained that the town’s revenue will actually increase by roughly $10,000 during the 2021-2022 fiscal year, as it was recently discovered that some Surgoinsville businesses’ sales tax revenue was mistakenly going to other jurisdictions.

For example, the town only recently discovered that the sales tax from Hilltop Towing and Auto Repair had been paid to Rogersville and Hawkins County instead of the town of Surgoinsville. However, Jarnigan noted that “there are more businesses out there” whose sales tax revenue is going to the wrong jurisdiction.

When errors such as this are discovered, the state allows the shorted municipality to recover only one year’s worth of revenue. As a result, Surgoinsville will receive roughly $4,200 from Rogersville and $5,500 from the county as a one-time payment of exactly $9,779.

“We’re getting about $10,000 back, and that would more than take care of a raise for the employees,” Jarnigan said of the recovered sales tax revenue.

He then noted that it has been around six years since the town has offered a raise for its employees, though some employees have received bonuses.

“If we had given them 25 cents an hour (extra) for the last six years, that would have been $1.50,” he said. “We shouldn’t have let it gone this long. I worked in a factory for 41 years, and, in that 41 years, I don’t guess there were two years that I didn’t get some kind of raise.”

Graham suggested that the board discuss a proposed employee raise with the intention of including the raise within the second draft of the budget.

“I’d like for it to be at least 25 cents on the hour,” Jarnigan said. “That doesn’t sound like much, but, over a year’s time that’s $520.”

“Our funds are in very good shape,” Graham said. “It’s the best shape probably since I’ve been in town.”

“There’s a lot more than the pay raise,” Alderman Matthew Somers said of the budget. “There’s a lot of stuff we need to go over line by line.”

City Recorder Pamela Mullins noted that the town has roughly $640,000 just in the general fund and around $30,000 in savings.

The budget’s first reading was approved 4-1 with only Somers voting no. The board will meet at 5:30 p.m. on May 24 to discuss the final draft of the budget, which will be up for final approval on June 14.