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PAY CHECK: Highest paid town employees, how salaries compare in other areas

With a new fiscal year now under way, employees with the Town of Jonesborough can expect to see a 5 percent increase in their pay.
This year marks the third installment of such a raise, with increases planned in the next two fiscal years as well.
“This was really based on a market study. The goal of the program is to get us up in a competitive range with other area municipalities,” Town Administrator Bob Browning said. “We were really just looking at getting to the bottom tier of the range we needed to be at to be competitive.”
In total, the compensation plan will give employee salaries a more than 25 percent increase over five years.
“The only thing we could do is focus on a percentage we felt was reasonable to handle over a five-year period,” Browning said. “It’s still not easy, but it is manageable.”
Following the end of the five years, leaders will reassess where the town stands as far as offering competitive salaries, Browning said.
A look at the 10 highest paid employees in the town as compared to other area municipalities — Johnson City, Elizabethton and Erwin — may offer further assessment as to just where the town stands when it comes to compensation. (See graph.)
The list of highest paid employees within the town comes as no surprise to Browning, who happens to be the highest paid town employee.
“The thing about a list like this is, you have to factor how long somebody has worked for the town. When I first started working for the Town of Jonesborough, my salary was something like $7,500,” Browning said. “You have people like (Town Operations Manager) Craig Ford, (Water Distribution Superintendent) Mike McCracken, (Water Treatment Plant Director) Mike Jackson, who have all worked for the town for 30 years.”
Longevity is certainly a reason, Browning explained, Police Maj. Matt Rice is among the 10 high est paid employees while Police Chief Matt Hawkins, doesn’t make the cut.
Hawkins is among three employees ranking 11th highest on the list, making $48,854. Joining him are Director of Streets Wally Sparks and Parks and Recreation Director Rachel Conger.
Conger recently received an $8,400 raise as members of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted last month to move her to the same pay grade as Hawkins and Sparks.
According to Browning, job duties also play a large role in the reason certain positions top the list of highest paid employees.
“These people are not overpaid. They are a tremendous value and resource to the town,” he said. “The way we operated 30 years ago, it’s night and day in terms of the expectations for positions.
“When you look at the liability involved, having competent people in there and paying enough to keep them should be a high priority. It is to the benefit of the people you are serving.”