County finance director wants more money

Published 3:06 pm Friday, April 7, 2023

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Eric Pearson says he was promised a significant salary increase when first hired to replace Sue Tuttle as the Claiborne County Finance Director. The pay jump was, according to Pearson and others on the county budget committee, supposed to be negotiated during the drafting of the FY2023-24 budget.

Pearson was initially hired some five months ago at a salary of $70,000 per year – the same amount that was budgeted for Tuttle when she took over the directorship from Angelia Tucker. Pearson requested via the proposed budget that he be considered for a pay bump to $90,715 – the current minimum for county officials established in the County Technical Assistance Service (CTAS) salary schedule. His current $70,000 per year salary makes Pearson the highest-paid county employee excluding the school system.

The 30 percent pay increase would make Pearson the second highest-paid Claiborne County employee. The director of schools makes more. It would also level him up to the same pay as all elected officials who are in charge of the county fee offices. Those officials include Court Clerk Jackie Rosenbalm, Tax Assessor Shane Breeding and County Clerk Karen Hurst among others. As of July 1, all elected officials who preside over the county fee offices will get a state-mandated salary bump from the current $86,395 to $90,715. These officials have enjoyed significant pay increases over the last three years.

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Claiborne is one of just 25 out of the 95 counties who run under the 1981 Act which, among other things, calls for a separate county finance office and director.

The subject of money came up reportedly during the regular County Finance Committee meeting in January. According to Mike Campbell, who sits on both the finance and budget committees, the pay increase was discussed “in great detail” and unanimously supported. The salary was recommended to the County Budget Committee for approval.

The pay jump was hotly discussed in detail by the nine-member budget committee prior to being called for vote by Nathan Epperson. Dustin Wilson seconded the measure.

The motion failed due to a lack of a majority. Budget committee member Mitchell Cosby was absent during the roll call vote.

Epperson, Wilson, Campbell and Sherry McCreary voted in favor of the increase. Zachery Bunch, David Mundy, Steve Mason and Zach Mullins voted against the measure.

The issue was supposed to be brought back to the floor during the following meeting on April 6. A particularly long and involved discussion about the Claiborne Sanitation/Landfill Department created a time crunch that called for adjournment of the lengthy meeting.

Mundy, who is the budget committee chairman, said he doubted the finance director’s proposed salary increase would be up for further discussion during the next meeting, scheduled for April 11. He said he foresaw a lengthy discussion about the Claiborne County Sheriff’s Office budget, indicating that that meeting would be adjourned as well before all items on the agenda were handled.

More debate on the finance director’s salary is certain. It is uncertain, however, just when the discussion will resume.