County employees will not receive a 2.5% pay raise for fiscal 2020-21, under a proposed budget forwarded Thursday to the full County Commission.

The resolution, approved by the commission’s Budget Committee, did not include the automatic 2.5% pay increase — even though it was recommended annually starting last year by a consultant charged with making Blount salaries competitive in the region.

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 last week to give school employees a 1.1% raise in addition to a step increase. However, the Budget Committee now is requiring the school board to cut more than $3 million from its proposed budget.

If the measure is approved by the full Blount County Commission, postponing the non-school employees’ pay raises would save the county $894,793.80.

In total, the county is expected to bring in revenue totaling $177,215,989.34 in 2020 — only $1.3 million more than in 2019.

The true revenues will be known only when the county receives its sales tax reports for April and May, Vineyard said.

Financial reports are provided by the state two months after the reported month, so knowing the true impact on the closure of the economy will only be made evident in June and July, Vineyard said.

“The June sales tax collection will be a good harbinger of what the impact is on the total economic activity will be,” he added.

Vineyard added that property taxes collected in October and November of this year also will be an indicator of how the county will recover from the COVID-19 economic lockdown.

Approximately 80.84% of fiscal 2019 property taxes were collected by November 2019, Vineyard said.

“If we were to see this fall a lessening of taxes collected, we will be having a more serious conversation,” Vineyard said. “It will likely mean we will have to adjust the budget.”

Several county entities reduced their 2020-21 budget requests — eliminating desired capital projects, staff expansions and updated equipment.

The Blount County Circuit Court Clerk and judges’ offices, Juvenile Court, Highway Department and E-911 Center, as well as the University of Tennessee Agriculture Extension in Blount County, would save the county more than $2 million through budget adjustments.

“To those folks’ credit, they realized this was not the time to make that request,” Vineyard said. “I commend those folks.”

Despite the uncertainty surrounding how the county’s economy will fare post-coronavirus, committee members voted unanimously not to change the current property tax rate of $2.47.

The same appropriations within the tax levy were approved — 88 cents will go to the General County Fund, 44 cents to the Debt Service Fund and 3 cents to the General Administration Fund. Blount County Schools would get 14 cents for capital projects and 98 cents would be split among the county and city school districts.

These and other budget items will be voted on by the full County Commission on at 7 p.m. June 18.

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

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