ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. -

Carter County Sheriff Chris Mathes is making a request to the county commission.

"If you don't ask for something, you're definitely not going to get it," he said.

He wants a two percent raise for his employees. The problem is, that would come out of the county's general fund budget, which was set at $12.8 million this year.

All the additional countywide requests have driven the proposed budget up to $13.4 million. "Our general fund has been bled down to a critically low level," County Mayor Leon Humphrey said. "The new commission is going to be seriously challenged to take care of this without seeing significant tax increases."

"I know it's hard on a taxpayer," Mathes said. "The employees have got to have hope. They've got to have something to look forward to and they've not gotten consistent raises."

While many other county leaders have asked for five percent raises for their department employees, Mathes tells us he's only asking for two percent. "A raise across the board for my employees," Mathes said. "We have a much larger budget and the employees are so deserving. We're one of the lowest-paid departments in East Tennessee."

Lower paid, but higher quality according to the sheriff.

He says his request is vital to retain good, trained employees, adding that it's better to pay a little more now he says than a lot more later. "Because if you lose them to someone else, it's going to be an additional cost," Mathes said. "That two percent, I believe, is a small price to pay. We hope the county commission will see fit to give them a raise."

A pay raise for county employees is sure to be a hot topic at the next Carter County commission meeting Monday May 19 at 9 a.m.