Bradley County Sheriff Jim Ruth seeks merit pay plan

Bradley County Sheriff Jim Ruth seeks merit pay plan

June 22nd, 2011 by Randall Higgins in News

Bradley County Sheriff Jim Ruth

Photo by John Rawlston/Times Free Press.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. - Bradley County Sheriff Jim Ruth says he is willing to make budget sacrifices to fund the first phase of a merit pay plan for certified employees.

Those sacrifices include five patrol cars now funded in the proposed 2011-12 budget.

Ruth proposed a merit, or career ladder, salary plan recently at a county Finance Committee meeting and again Monday to the Bradley County Commission.

The Finance Committee meets Monday at 6 p.m., an hour before the commission's work session. The committee will consider Ruth's plan to reduce money for capital projects in the proposed budget.

Several commissioners commended Ruth for seeking a place for his priority within the budget.

"He is willing to make sacrifices because he sees this, as an elected official, as a priority," Commissioner J. Adam Lowe said.

But Commissioner Jeff Yarber asked what would happen in following budget years if the economy does not improve and it becomes time to fund the second and third phases of the merit-based pay plan.

"We were elected to make the tough decisions," Finance Committee Chairwoman Connie Wilson said.

She has said she would like to see merit-based salary increases considered in all county departments.

Merit pay increases can be frozen during a bad budget year, Lowe said.

"We need to do something, not just for the sheriff's department but all the departments," said Commissioner Ed Elkins. "But this is not the way to do it."

Elkins warned there will be future needs for capital projects funds.

To consider the sheriff's appeal, plus another from the county Election Commission, the budget remains undecided. The commission has reset its decision day to July 18.

The proposed budget from County Mayor D. Gary Davis includes a 1.6 percent pay increase for all county employees, the first in three years. County commissioners have agreed to forgo their share of the increase.

Contact Randall Higgins at rhiggins@timesfreepress.com or 423-314-1029.