By ALLEN RAU

Staff Writer

arau@heraldandtribune.com

The Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted Monday to retain the same compensation plan for town employees as well as maintain the same rates for property taxes, water and sewer taxes and garbage collection fees in the 2018-2019 Town of Jonesborough budget.

While the BMA elected to keep the town’s compensation plan, which is an across-the-board 3 percent increase, an amendment was added to explore additional opportunities for town employees to improve compensation in the future. There was concern from some members that increasing compensation by percentages across the board would lead to an increasing pay gap between those at higher salaries and those at lower salaries.

“It was my goal to improve the pay of the town employees making less than $42,000 and to reduce that increasing pay gap we have between the field and administration,” Mayor Chuck Vest said. “To do that we must in a small way change the way we compensate our decision makers. I’m a firm believer that to bring change you must first plant some seeds and that’s what we did last night in our discussion.”

Vest suggested an across-the-board dollar increase as opposed to a percentage “to close that gap between the top and the bottom.”

The mayor acknowledged that a flat dollar increase would mean less compensation for those on the high end of the payscale.

“It is not my goal to see anybody harmed in any way or earn less.”

Alderman Terry Countermine added, “We need to come up with a plan that works with the plan we have, but gives employees a chance to earn more money by improving themselves and making themselves more valuable in the positions that they are.”

Alderman Virginia Causey cautioned that changing the compensation plan at this time would rush the process and was in favor of moving forward with the plan currently in place while allowing town staff time to evaluate any new plans for the following year.

Aldermen Adam Dickson and David Sell felt that the current plan was adequate and Dickson pointed out “We’ve received two documents from town staff being rather clear that they’re recommending that we not make any alterations to the plan.”

After much discussion on the issue, Operations Manager Craig Ford informed the board that one option included creating programs that would allow employees to reach certain incentives.

“It gives those individuals an opportunity to do some things on their own initiative,” Ford said. “We can look at those things, there’s so many classes, even in the street department as an example. There’s so many OSHA classes with flagging and trench safety … you can write incentives on any position description we have here.”

Causey made a motion to approve the compensation plan as written. The motion was seconded by Countermine, who added an amendment to have town directors document different options for their departments that would provide incentive opportunities.

Causey accepted the amendment and all aldermen voted in favor of the motion.

Browning added later that they were “going to work on creating opportunities for employees that want the opportunity to better themselves or learn more skills in their area of expertise.”

The BMA also approved Jonesborough’s property tax at the same rate with no change, $1.3105 per $100 of assessed value on all real and personal property.

Water and sewer rates were approved at the same rate with no changes.

Inside Jonesborough city limits, the minimum monthly billing for the first 1,000 gallons remains $16.50, while the sewer rate for the first 1,000 gallons is $20.63.

Outside Jonesborough city limits, the minimum monthly billing for the first 1,000 gallons also continues at  $27.50, while the sewer rate for the first 1,000 gallons is $34.38.

Garbage collection rates also stayed unchanged at $15.50 per month with a $2  discount for residents that recycle. The price for one dumpster being picked up once per week is $90 per month.