Dandridge Board of Mayor and Aldermen Counter Skyrocketing Inflation With Pay Increases For Town Employees

The Town of Dandridge employees will receive a $2 dollar per hour raise thanks to action taken by the Dandridge Board of Mayor and Aldermen on Monday evening. During the fiscal year 2022-2023 budgeting cycle a 3% raise had been factored into the current budget but that increase proved to be too little to accommodate for the escalating cost of living which the nation has experienced over the last several months.

Employee raises were the only item on the agenda for the special called meeting and Dandridge Mayor Gantte immediately opened the floor for discussion. Vice Mayor Jessica Chambers Elder voiced concern that the potential increase would be an ongoing expense for the municipality. She also stated that, though surrounding cities have had substantial increases recently to address the national and local economic situation, Dandridge offers a strong benefit package for eligible employees. While no information was available on the benefits provided in surrounding areas, it was noted that Jefferson City has recently given a large pay increase. Mayor Gantte and Alderman Nelson both voiced their appreciation for Town employees and their desire to keep competitive with wages. Alderman Depew stated that information has been brought to light that Dandridge lags far behind in pay for police officers and that all employees, across the board and from every department, need a competitive living wage. He also voiced his concern that the previous 3% employee raise included in the current year’s budget did not even cover the cost of living increase of 5.9% that was given by social security to off set cost of living increases which is generally the floor for cost of living assessments. Depew also noted that projections put the next social security increase at between 10.6 % and 11% which will take place in four months. Dandridge employees have been functioning with no pay increase for 6 six months while waiting for the budgeted 3% raise to go into effect.

Town Administrator Rudder stated that he is comfortable with the Town’s ability to fund the raise ongoing. According to Rudder, the cost of the raise will be just north of $200,000 for full and part time employees and the Town has historically had an annual roll over of unused funds of around $1 million dollars. Currently the Town’s fund balance sits at $4,605,343 and that does not include around $475,000 in ARPA funds. He estimated that next year the fund balance will increase to more that $5 million dollars.

Alderman Depew made the motion to fund the $2 per hour across the board raise for full and part time employees. Depew was 2nd by Alderman Reese and, despite lengthy discussion, the motion passed unanimously.

The Board of Mayor and Alderman also approved offering Town Administrator Rudder an increase in compensation. Rudder did not receive the previous 3% raise or the $2 per hour raise that was approved for employees. Alderman Nelson and Alderman Kesterson noted that Rudder has preformed 2 jobs simultaneously for the Town which saved the citizens around $70,000 annually for the past four years. It was also noted that his salary is substantially lower(estimated to be more than $40,000 lower through discussion) than that of the Jefferson City Administrator. The Board of Mayor and Alderman approved a $15,674 dollar raise for Rudder and offered a five year contract with a “for cause” clause. The raise comes to just around 4% above the 13% mark that was given to employees. The action found favor with all but Aldermen Mike Chambers who did not support the increase and contract extension.

Source: K. Depew, News Director