published Saturday, June 11th, 2011

Step pay plan studied for Bradley sheriff’s office

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Bradley County Sheriff Jim Ruth on Friday proposed to the County Commission’s finance committee a career ladder development program for his department.

Ruth made the proposal as the committee met to review Mayor D. Gary Davis’ proposed 2011-12 county budget.

“This is something that is a priority for me,” Ruth said. “Our No. 1 priority is to retain good, professional law enforcement officers.”

He suggested the first phase of the program could be paid for by reductions in some categories of the department’s proposed budget and moving money in some line items. Among other savings measures, Ruth said, is a plan not to assign take-home patrol cars to first-year deputies. They would ride with a seasoned officer for that year and be assigned to cars from the motor pool.

The career ladder pay idea was endorsed earlier by the county’s law enforcement committee and referred to the finance committee. Finance committee members and Davis said Friday it’s a good idea.

The problem, Davis said, is the money suggested to be moved within the budget already is dedicated to capital projects and can’t be moved. And, he said, there is no money available elsewhere.

Finance committee Chairwoman Connie Wilson asked Davis to continue looking for a solution.

Commissioner Jeff Morelock said his concern is that the department may run into budget problems later in the fiscal year.

“My concern is if there will be a lot of budget amendments later,” Morelock said.

Committee members said the idea should be considered for all county employees but that will take a long time.

Commissioner Ed Elkins had other concerns about the proposed budget. The April 27 tornadoes have started a building spree with federal and insurance dollars, he said. Over the course of the fiscal year that begins July 1, he said, that expected revenue could drop.

Elkins also said damaged and destroyed homes already are being reassessed downward in property value, affecting property taxes.

He questioned the proposed budget’s 1.3 percent projection in revenue increases for the county.

But Davis said the 500 storm-damaged homes are a small number compared to overall property ownership. And he said payments in lieu of taxes will begin next fiscal year from some of the new industries and expansions already announced.

about Randall Higgins...

Randall Higgins covers news in Cleveland, Tenn., for the Times Free Press. He started work with the Chattanooga Times in 1977 and joined the staff of the Chattanooga Times Free Press when the Free Press and Times merged in 1999. Randall has covered Southeast Tennessee, Northwest Georgia and Alabama. He now covers Cleveland and Bradley County and the neighboring region. Randall is a Cleveland native. He has bachelor’s degree from Tennessee Technological University. His awards ...

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