Polk County’s Budget Committee met Tuesday, April 12 to begin work on the county budget for 2016-17. Multiple county employees were on hand to discuss the county’s pay scale and request a $2.50 raise. County Budget Director Kelley Morgan said office holders had not turned in their budgets yet because they were waiting to see if they should input the raises. Morgan said raises had been talked about last year, but commissioners opted to give a one-time bonus. She said the county’s pay scale had gone up only $2856 in the last 20 years. County employees currently start at $8.08; the requested adjustment to the pay scale would start employees at $10.58. Part-time employees would get a 75¢ raise.
Amy Ledford in The Clerk of Courts office told commissioners it was hard for them to find two people to fill recent vacancies. She said Connie Clark interviewed four who turned down the job because of the starting pay. “I have been there since 2006 and my bring home is $503 every two weeks. It’s hard to make it on that,” Amy said, adding, “Thank the good Lord above my husband has a good job.”
Amy said they get talked to like they are dogs and recently had a man threaten to shoot them. She said they may be in the justice center, but there is not always a deputy there. She said they were all willing to come to work because they love their jobs.
Karen Bracken, 2nd District Commissioner, said they did not know what the total impact would be on the budget. Morgan said it would be about $300,000. John Hoyt Pippenger, 1st District Commissioner, said when he did the math it looked more like half a million. William Bracken said that did not include FICA or contributions to retirement, and another 15% should be added.
On Wednesday, Morgan said the discrepancy in her amount and Pippenger’s amount was due to the difference in pay scale for Sheriff’s Department employees. She said they had a higher pay scale to begin with, and the Sheriff was asking for $1.25 raise. Morgan said her numbers were correct.
Road Department employees are not included in the raise, as they have their own pay scale.
Daniel Deal, 3rd District Commissioner, said they definitely needed to figure out the right number, but that he was for giving raises. He said it would be hard for him to make it for that amount of money, adding the commission had to make sure they could do it. Deal said he was in support of raises last year. Pippenger said he wished they had done it last year.
Bracken said there was an additional $56,000 for sanitation in this year’s budget. She said there would be $89,000 in debt service for the roof loan, as well. She said they could save about $100,000 by dropping to a level 2 calculation for the schools, which were down 2.3% in membership. Pippenger said they still had to deal with Maintenance of Effort; Bracken said they would not have to.
Pippenger said new regulations on internal controls in county offices also meant the county had to add 3-4 employees. He anticipated the addition of new employees and raises would mean a potential property tax increase of 18¢. Morgan said she was going to have to take over the accounting for the Road Department, pointing out they would not get the salary from the Road Department to do it. She said there were two employees there and she did not mind taking one but she would not take both.
“I’m not going to be over someone that makes more than me,” Morgan said. She said there were all kinds of issues to hash out, but a plan had to be in place by June 30th. Morgan said the county no longer had the option not to do it. Buster Lewis, 1st District Commissioner, said a meeting with Gary Hayes to explain the changes was a waste of time because he did not give them the correct information.
Morgan said she would need at least two full-time positions added to her office to do the segregation of duties. She said there was talk of moving that office downstairs in the courthouse to make more room.
Kandi Bramlett, Register of Deeds, said she would not have to add a position because she was already budgeted for a part-time position that was not filled. Connie Clark said they would not need to hire someone right now. The Trustee’s office would likely need at least one additional part-time worker.
Mike Curbow, 2nd District Commissioner, said he was in support of a raise but did not know if they could do that much. Deal asked if the employees would be against $2.00; Amy said it was a slap in the face to not get raises. She said the 35¢ they had gotten over the years was actually a loss considering increases in insurance. Pippenger pointed out that 80% of insurance increases were paid by the county.
Amanda Hill in the County Executive’s Office said being a single parent at Level 2 was hard. She said she could barely cover the bills and felt like the employees were worth the $2.50.
Bracken said she did not think they were in disagreement, but commissioners had to look to see where the money would come from. She said giving them a raise would mean they have to pay more in taxes. Curbow said they were also looking at people who were low-income and potentially faced a 19-20¢ increase.
Deal said he was for the raise and they would have to work it out. He said he had never voted for a property tax increase, but there will come a time when they have to do it. He said he was not worried about getting re-elected and he wouldn’t do the job the county employees did for the money they got.
Lewis said he had been talking for years about kicking the can down the road, and it looked like they were about at that pile of cans.
Morgan asked if the office holders should put the $2.50 in their budgets or not. She said she was not going to go back and forth putting raises in and taking them out over and over like they did last year. Pippenger said he was not against it, but wanted to make sure the county could fund it. He said in the past commissioners got budgets that showed amounts with raises and without. Keith Barker with the Sheriff’s Department said they were all making less money now than ever because of insurance increases. He said they would gladly take anything the county could afford. Hill said she was told last year the employees did not fight for raises and that’s why they got bonuses. “That’s why we’re all here,” Hill said.
Bramlett told the board they had a difficult job and appreciated them. Deal made a motion to allow the $2.50 to be added to the budgets so they could see if it would work. Curbow said they would hope for the best. Mark Bishop, Greg Brooks, Sheena Gaddis, and Daren Waters were absent. Buster Lewis was re-elected Chairman of the Budget Committee at the beginning of the meeting.