A new pay plan for county employees would be implemented with passage of the 2016-17 budget later this month but some public officials don’t like it and are asking the county commission to reconsider.
Under the plan, employees of the offices of Trustee, Register of Deeds, County Clerk, Assessor of Property, County Mayor, Circuit Court Clerk, and Clerk and Master would get step raises at a percentage of what their employer earns. But since the county mayor gets $10,000 more than the other aforementioned officials, his two employees would earn more money than their clerks.
Register of Deeds Jeff McMillen, in addressing the county mayor and commissioners in a workshop session Tuesday evening at the courthouse, said he doesn’t think the plan is fair.
“I consider my employees to be just as important as they are. Every office is important or they wouldn’t have it. I can’t imagine how you can think that they (county mayor’s two employees) are worth $4,000 more than my employees just because Tim (Stribling) makes $75,000 and I make $65,000. I’m not asking you to take anything away from Tim’s girls. They are important. They write the checks. They pay the bills and all that. We record the deeds. So we’re important too or we wouldn’t be there. Every office has got a function,” he said.
McMillen claims the proposed pay plan only adds to disparity which already exists between the county mayor’s employees and other clerks. According to McMillen, the county mayor’s employees earn extra pay for writing grants on behalf of the county, not part of their regular duties, but they do it while at work. “They are splitting that money ($4,500) and basically getting over $2,000 more than what our employees are,” he said.
McMillen and others are also upset that they were not invited to attend the budget committee meeting when this issue was decided. McMillen said he had to learn the particulars of the plan in a news story on WJLE's website.
During a lengthy meeting last month, the county commission’s budget committee came up with the new wage scale and tied it to the salaries of the county public officials. Because it is based on a percentage of what their boss earns, clerks would get an automatic pay hike funded by the county every time the state grants a pay raise for the county’s public officials. The plan also includes five step increases for these employees with them being eligible to earn up to 44% of their employer’s salary at level 5 after eight years of service.
Wayne Cantrell, Chairman of the Budget Committee, said automatic pay raises for clerks when their bosses get an increase is an aspect of the plan he likes.
“We came out of there (budget committee meeting) united because we thought that this was the best thing we could do right now,” added Budget Committee member Larry Summers.
McMillen warned the commission that it would be fostering division and hurt feelings if employees of one office are treated differently than the others. “Tell me what the difference is between those girls and mine. They don’t have to have a BS degree. They don’t have to have an Associate’s Degree. All they have to do is come in and apply for a job and him (county mayor) be willing to hire them because he thinks they can help him,” said McMillen.
“I think there needs to be an honest appreciation of the fact that there are different accountabilities all across our county and in your offices. If you are the manager at Food Lion, Walmart, or Federal Mogul there are people who stand side by side that earn different wages. In my mind those two people (county mayor’s employees) are not statutory clerks as all of your employees are. They don’t take an oath of office. And that doesn’t have any bearing on the raise. But in that office(county mayor), if you went to a CPA and said what would it take to do payroll for 120 people you would get a lot higher salary than probably either one of those girls make. And take into consideration accounts payable for our size county. That’s just the way I look at it,” said Budget Committee member Jack Barton.
“My office is bigger in accounts receivable than accounts payable. So how can you compare that?”, asked Trustee Sean Driver who also addressed the commission.
McMillen said the county ‘s plan also fails to take into consideration years of service. “You’re not saying anything about time of service being important. I have an employee who has been here 19 years. One employee of the county mayor’s office hasn’t been here near that long and she is going to make $3,000 more than my 19 year clerk,” he said.
When asked by Trustee Driver if he thought the plan was fair, County Mayor Stribling replied that it was the budget committee’s recommendation and that if the county commission were to vote it down then the budget committee would have to revisit it.
Should the county commission adopt the budget, which includes the new pay plan, clerks could challenge it in court. McMillen said there are no plans to do so. “There is no lawsuit guys. We’ve never met with any attorney. We’ve not talked about that. I don’t want a lawsuit. That’s not what we’re here for. When lawsuits are happening, it’s bad for all of us because you know who pays for every bit of it? The county does. We’re not into a lawsuit. We’re into a discussion,” he said.
“ I only ask that you look at paying everybody the same. I owe it to my employees to represent them”, McMillen concluded.
During a previous budget committee meeting last month, Circuit Court Clerk Katherine Pack and Trustee Sean Driver expressed their opposition to the proposed pay plan.