County elected officials respond to challenge

Published 10:11 pm Friday, September 24, 2010

The gauntlet has been thrown down and several county officials have responded to the challenge.

Pike County Commission Chairman Jimmy Barron said it will be up to the county’s elected officials whether they will accept the commission’s proposed 1.5 percent cost of living raises for FY2011. The vote on the raises will come at the commission’s Monday meeting. The raises would go into effect Oct. 1.

The commission agreed this week to grant a 1.5 percent FY2011cost of living raise for all county employees, including elected officials. However, Barron and commissioners Robin Sullivan and Oren Fannin said they would not accept the raises.

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Commissioner Ray Goodson did not attend the meeting and Commissioners Homer Wright and Charlie Harris were noncommittal, saying only that they would “sleep on it.”

Barron said that county employees are deserving of a raise and elected officials will have to decide on their own if they want to accept a raise.

For the three elected officials paid from the county’s general fund – sheriff, probate judge and revenue commisioner, there was not much to think about, they said.

Revenue Commissioner Curtis Blair said he will pass the raise on to the employees in his office.

“I’ll take mine and give it to my employees,” he said. “I give them a bonus from my personal funds at Christmas and this raise will go to them.”

Sheriff Russell Thomas said any money that he gets from the 1.5 percent raise will go to the county’s senior citizens.

“I’ll take my raise and give it to the (Colley) senior citizen center,” he said. “I want the money to be put to good use and the seniors deserve it. I’ll be accountable for the money. It will go to our seniors, not to buy computers. The county is in better shape financially than it has ever been with $317,000 above expenses.”

Probate Judge Wes Allen said he will not accept the 1.5 percent cost of living raise.

“These are tough economic times,” he said. “My number one goal is for our citizens to get the most effective and efficient service possible from our tax dollars.”

Sullivan said his refusal to accept the raise was his expression of appreciation for the hard work the county employees do on a daily basis.

“I’m a public servant and I’m not going to give myself a raise,” he said.

Fannin said he objects to elected officials giving themselves and other elected officials raises.

“Raises ought be put on the ballot every two years and let the voters decide,” he said. “The maximum raise ought to be 2 percent and the options ought to be a 2 percent raise, no raise or a 2 percent cut. If officials aren’t doing their job, they ought to be cut.”

Wright said he has not made a decision and will not until after Monday night when the vote becomes official.

Harris and Goodson could not be reached for comment.