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Joe Wiggins: Editorial 7-19-13

SCAreadersSpeakOutI have been an avid reader of the I-24 Exchange, Ashland City Times and The Tennessean for many years. On Saturday, July 13, 2013, I read an article in the I-24 written by the editor Zachary McCarver, titled “The Way I See it” expressed in a personal view that I consider to be impartial, non-bias and non-partisan observation relative to taxes, budget and economic growth within Cheatham County. Mr. McCarver encourages a “Balance & Planning” scenario to address problems facing county leaders and residents (I would like to include “Prioritize”). I would encourage all Cheatham County residents to read this editorial column. The I-24 Exchange is free and can be found at the Post Office (Pleasant View and Joelton) and some businesses in Pleasant View area.

After reading numerous articles expressed by the local news media and comments written by various writers (Letter to the Editor) pertaining to proposed pay raise, taxes, budget issues and economic growth within Cheatham County, I am concerned that we are not all reading and/or listening to the same national/state/local economic indicators that has been in the toilet for past several years, … and with no apparent answers in sight (e.g., Federal Sequestration is affecting millions of workers with furlough and loss of jobs worldwide; many businesses are being forced to downsizing and/or going out-of-business altogether due to forced regulations, forced insurance/medical cost, and etc.).

As a former government employee (retired), I understand the frustration of employees that are overworked, underpaid and the feeling of unappreciated (and yes!, at times I worked a second job). Furthermore, any raises received were modest 1.5% – 2.0% and based on COLA (“cost-of-living adjustment“), but there was never a guaranteed pay raise for employees. There were several years whereby revenues did not met projections and budgets were not amenable to pay raise for employees … I was just thankful to have a job.

Cheatham county commissioners are currently evaluating proposed taxes rates, budgets and a pay plan for county employees without drastically impacting county residents. Cheatham county residents have been put on notice that an increase in property tax is looming; in addition, the Cheatham County School Board has just submitted their budget request for $5.3 million to the education committee of the county commission for consideration. These same tax increases (if imposed) will have an impact on those same county employees seeking a pay raise. Also, any tax increase will have a detrimental effect for individuals living on a fixed income as their living expenses will increase as well, and most likely exceed any adjustment to their income.

I am not opposed to county employees receiving a raise in pay. The fact that county employees have not received a raise in seven years is irresponsible and shows a lack respect and appreciation by present and past county administrators. That would be last term of Mayor Bill Orange and the first term of Mayor David McCullough. Brief history note, Mayor Orange was adamant about an “Industrial Park,” and Mayor McCullough has been adamant about a joint venture with Robertson County “Red River,” (I-24/exit 19), and a water/sewer project (I-24/exit 31). To reflect back and think of the monies spent on pet projects and feasibility studies that could have provided some form of a pay raises for our valued county employees is reprehensible.

I disagree with Mayor McCullough justification that county employees are 18% behind is salary in comparison to Cheatham’s sister counties … you cannot compare counties on an equal basis without considering economic factors. Furthermore, stating that the county is unable to retain its employees due to pay its structure … it is only natural for people to seek jobs that appeal to their skills with pay better and benefits. The most important question is … where do they call home, enjoy living and wish to raise a family? A recent article published by The Tennessean (Monday June 24th, 2013), Robertson County Sheriff reported “in past five years, the turnover has averaged 24 percent” citing similar issues as those expressed by Cheatham County. Mayor Howard Bradley further iterated “if you’ve got that kind of hemorrhage of employees that we’ve got in that department, you’ve got a systemic problem.”

In my opinion, it all goes back to better planning, establishing priorities and balancing available resources to implement those goals and objectives.

Joe Wiggins

Joelton, TN

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