Jellico fails to pay employees

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By Beth Braden

Twenty-one town employees found their bank balances a little thin after the town of Jellico came up $9,000 short of making payroll Monday morning.

“I did not make payroll yesterday. It is the first time in 10 years,” said town recorder Linda Douglas on Monday.

May through November is typically a tight time for revenue, Douglas said. Last year, the town received roughly $147,000 in Rarity Mountain taxes that carried it through the thin months. This year, that wasn’t an option because the Rarity Mountain Development has since experienced financial difficulties.

Mayor Les Stiers said there are three things that contributed to the lack of payment.

“Number one, our bill of revenue is down. Number two, our sales tax is down, and number three is failure on the council’s part to look at veins of revenue for the city,” he said.

In recent months, the city mechanic, building inspector and dispatch positions have been eliminated, as well as overtime at the fire department. The fire department now also does their own dispatch. Stiers says those were his own decisions.

“The council shares responsibility in this and they refuse to accept responsibility,” he said.

In July, the town’s financial records showed a bank balance of $67,316.96. Invoices for the month totaled $59,913.12.

In August, the bank balance was $82,804.99 with invoices totaling $65,080.58.

In September, invoices totaled $49,027.75, but there was no information listed under “bank balance.”

Vice Mayor Venita “Cissco” Johnson wonders where the money went.

“I think it’s been a lot of spending that’s been done that hasn’t been brought to the council,” Johnson said.

Stiers maintains the situation could have been avoided if the council had agreed to sell land, sell timber, annex property, or raise taxes.

Employees are typically paid every Monday, costing the town roughly $15,000, said Douglas.

Incoming deposits from the state totaling $58,000 in various tax monies were expected to roll in between Oct. 16 and Oct. 20. The town should be able to pay employees on Friday, and then they will be paid again on Monday, according to Douglas.

“It’s just gonna be a reoccurring issue and the city will start laying people off,” Stiers said. “The council refuses to give the city any veins of revenue, so they give the mayor no choice but to send people home.”

It was not clear if the town would pick up the tab for any of the employees’ over-draft fees due to the lack of payment.

“That’s to be addressed at the council meeting,” Stiers said.
Jellico’s mayor and board of aldermen will meet tonight at 6:30 p.m. at the municipal building.