published Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

Jasper hires municipal finance officer

JASPER, Tenn. -- The Jasper Board of Mayor and Aldermen has hired a certified municipal finance officer and passed this year's budget with raises for city employees on first reading.

At the board's August meeting, Mayor Billy Simpson recommended Mark Johnson for the finance officer position, and he was approved by a 4-0 vote.

"This is something I've been working on for roughly four months," Simpson said. "He's coming into our area and comes highly recommended from [the Municipal Technical Advisory Service]. This is something that we have no control over. It's mandated by the state, and it has to be in place by Jan. 1."

Johnson, formerly the chief financial officer and office manager for the Town of Signal Mountain, has a two-year state certification to do the job, Simpson said.

Alderman Paul Evans, who abstained from voting to hire Johnson, said he thought current city employees were being trained and certified for the job, as neighboring municipalities have done over the past two years.

"I don't have a problem hiring someone, but I feel like if we had the job description and if this thing was going to be capped, I'd have a little more information on it," Evans said.

Simpson said South Pittsburg, Tenn., and Kimball, Tenn., each spent "thousands of dollars" to send their employees to certification training and significantly increased those employees' salaries.

He said Jasper had to have the finance person in place "or we get fined by the [state] comptroller. We've got to get in compliance."

Officials said Johnson will be a $25-per-hour city employee who works on an "as-needed basis" and will not receive benefits such as health insurance coverage.

Simpson said he expects Johnson to work a maximum of four to five hours per week.

After hiring Johnson, the board voted 4-1 to pass this year's budget on first reading. Officials said it must be approved on third and final reading by October to avoid state intervention.

Evans, who cast the lone dissenting vote, said the current budget does not "call for any money for this employee that we just hired."

"We don't have a budget right now," he said.

The budget, which includes a 2 percent pay increase for all city employees retroactive to July 1, is a work in progress, Simpson said.

"We still have some [budget] workshops to go, and we'll have to put the money in there," he said.

The board is expected to address the budget again at its next monthly meeting Sept. 10.

Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at ryanlewis34@gmail.com.

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