Blount County Mayor Ed Mitchell has requested that he not receive an annual salary increase in fiscal year 2020-21.

During a June 18 Blount County Commission meeting, Mitchell said he refused to accept the raise because increases for county employees were not included in the county’s 2020-21 budget due to COVID-19’s strain on the local economy.

“I just cannot in good conscience take a raise in salary,” Mitchell said. “I have to live with myself and my heart will not let me take a raise when the employees are not getting one.”

Mitchell was referring to an automatic 2.5% pay raise for county employees recommended annually starting last year by a consultant charged with making Blount salaries competitive in the region.

As a result of the financial repercussions of COVID-19, the recommended raise was not included in the county’s fiscal year 2020-21 budget, which was approved at last month’s commission meeting.

County employees, however, could receive those pay increases in December if the economy returns to normal from the pandemic, and the committee is able to reevaluate, Blount County Director of Budgets Randy Vineyard said.

If revenues exceed what is expected, county employees also could receive the pay increase retroactively — covering the months they were not paid.

The action on the county raises doesn’t apply to Blount County Schools employees.

The Board of Education voted in May to give school employees a 1.1% raise in addition to a step increase.

The exclusion of employee raises will save the county $894,793.80.

The salaries of elected officials, such as Mitchell, are determined and approved by the Tennessee General Assembly.

Blount commissioners earlier this month unanimously approved a resolution to request the Tennessee General Assembly postpone the mayor’s raise.

Such a resolution was considered upon request from Mitchell himself, his executive assistant Amy Cowden emailed.

“If they are unwilling to or unable to approve this request, then I will take the raise and donate to Blount County charities,” Mitchell said. “Either way, I cannot accept this raise.”

He did not specify which charities would be included if he were to receive the raise.

Mitchell is slated to earn a salary of $136,928.48, according to the 2020-21 budget breakdown on the county’s website.

Follow @sshreports on Twitter for more from county government reporter Shelby Harris.

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