Sumner County Administrator of Elections Lori Atchley resigned last week saying she’s ready to go back to her work in construction and development.
But that wasn’t all Atchley said in her resignation letter dated Sept. 16.
Atchley, who was appointed to the position in 2011, wrote in great detail about how she has repeatedly asked the Sumner County Commission to pay her staff a salary comparable to election office deputies in other counties as well as a salary comparable to what similar employees in other county offices are making.
Her pleas, she says, have fallen on deaf ears.
Most recently, she says she brought a payroll analysis to the county’s budget committee in the spring that wasn’t even considered. Instead, she was told the county plans to hire a third party to conduct its own analysis - which still hasn’t happened.
We can’t help but contrast Atchley’s experience with the county’s budget process with that of Director of Schools Del Phillips. During the budget process in the spring, Phillips presented a budget to the county’s education and budget committees, as well as the full commission, with no mention of raises for teachers. In June, county leaders delayed voting on the budget as a whole until the completion of a countywide reappraisal.
On Aug. 6, Phillips told school board members that since county leaders would be setting a new tax rate following the reappraisal, he wanted to ask commissioners to set aside funding for teacher raises for the 2020-21 fiscal year.
Six days later, Phillips asked the county’s Budget Committee for $8.8 million to give more than 2,000 certified employees a $4,000-a-year pay increase. Like Atchley, Phillips had prepared his own analysis - comparing teacher salaries in Sumner to those in other counties.
On Aug. 19 the full commission voted to set the tax rate 33 cents higher than the certified rate with 12 cents of the tax hike going to fund the raises Phillips requested. The raises will take effect in January.
We want to know why one department head’s pay analysis is taken at face value – no questions asked - while another’s isn’t?
Atchley says she requested $53,000 to bring her salaries to the lowest level of wages compared to similar election offices and other departments within the county, but was only given $13,000 towards the salaries.
And yet Phillips’ request for $8.8 million is granted within the span of 13 days.
“While I am pleased that the teachers in the county received a pay increase to assist in recruiting and retaining those positions, I do not understand why the election commission employees who are responsible for running elections for every office in the county are considered less valuable,” wrote Atchley.
We believe that all departments within Sumner County government should be treated equally and fairly.
This goal is made harder by the fact that the county doesn’t have a human resources department.
Yes, you read that correctly. While cities like Gallatin and Hendersonville have their own human resources departments to oversee pay scales and other employee-related issues, our county government does not.
Until that becomes a reality, we urge those in county government to push harder for equity among all employees – not just the ones who are politically connected.
The Main Street Media editorial board is comprised of Publisher Dave Gould, News Editor Sherry Mitchell and reporters Tena Lee and Josh Cross.