Members of the budget committee heard from public officials and their staffs Tuesday night concerning establishing a wage scale for county employees.
All seemed to like the idea of setting up a pay scale for workers based on their years of service and while some said they were undecided, most are still opposed to giving employees job titles and basing their pay somewhat on their classification.
Some suggested implementing a step increase this year based on years of service, if it can be done without a property tax increase, and wait on job classification until an independent study could be done to formulate a plan, but the budget committee members took no action. It will be up to the budget committee to make some recommendation to the full county commission board.
County Mayor Mike Foster, an advocate of job classification, cited a long list of duties his staff has to perform and added that it isn't fair that they are paid much less than employees of the board of education central office and other counties who perform similar jobs and are classified by job titles. "Since I've been here the job has grown and grown and I still have two people (employees). When they (employees) look around across the street (board of education) and see somebody doing exactly the same job and who is not dealing with the landfill, the fire department, the billing, the grants and all the things we do and who is making twelve thousand dollars a year more than they are and they look at other counties who are making more then it becomes a little problem. If I lose one (employee) it'll take me six months to a year to get anybody doing that job. That's where I am. I don't think I'm better or that my girls are better than anybody, but if I'm going to keep them I've got to pay them. There's a law that says I can pay my secretaries at whatever they (county commission) will approve. But that's not what I want to do. I have never wanted mine to get a raise and no one else to get one," said Foster.
County Clerk Mike Clayborn said his employees also perform a variety of duties in the office. "We do seven different things and I could make it look like a hundred. But those seven things are just to do with license plates. They do twelve things that have nothing to do with license plates. People may say anyone can sell license plates. If that's all they did that would be alright. But that's not all they do. I'm for the step raises but I'm against the classifications. I don't want classifications in my office. I don't want classifications in the other offices. I think they should all be the same," said Clayborn.
Register of Deeds Jeff McMillen said he does not like the notion of having to classify one courthouse employee over another because they basically perform the same tasks and are equally important."I do think that we need to put a step increase in. I think it's a great idea. The way I look at it is if you're coming in that front door (to register of deeds office) and you've got a deed in your hand, the most important person to the public is that person in the register's office. If you've got car tags in your hand, the most important person is the people in the (county) clerk's office. If I put a classification on my girls they might look at each other and say ‘you're supposed to take care of this'. In the register's office, when you come in I want you taken care of as quick as possible and in the best manner that can be done. Again, I am not against the step increases. I think its great. I just don't want to have to put classifications on my employees. But what they do at the ambulance service or the landfill is none of my business," he said
Trustee Sean Driver said he opposes job classification of county employees at the courthouse and county complex fearing that morale might suffer. "I am for the step raise program out of fairness. But at this point, I am not for classification because of morale breakdown. The only way I'd be for classification at this point is that if they were classified all the same in these government offices," said Driver.
"I'm against the classifications at this time", said Clerk and Master Deborah Malone. "But I am for step raises," she said.
"I am for raises. I'm not for sure about classifications. I am not sure what I feel or what I think on classifications," said Assessor of Property Scott Cantrell.
"What I would really love to do is implement the step raises and have the independent consultant do a survey or whatever they do and then get back and meet back together and see where we are then. But I am definitely for step raises," said Circuit Court Clerk Katherine Pack.
Budget committee member John Green said he would like for the county to do more for employees, many of whom are making just barely above being eligible to qualify for food stamps." I've worked in a lot of factories and there has always been classifications, job titles, and certified people. There are many different jobs. And we've got important jobs in this county. But the bottom line is we need to try to help. There's people paying insurance right now. There's people who are making barely above being able to qualify for food stamps. That's bad. Maybe we ought to start people out a little bit better. I still think the step raises and a step pay scale needs to be in there because when you work thirty years at a place you shouldn't have somebody who has just started yesterday (earning the same pay)," he said.
No pay raises were included in this year's budget, other than for employees due a raise in a four tiered salary pay scale for the Sheriff's Department which was implemented last year to bring their salaries in line with other law enforcement agencies in the area.
Each courthouse or county complex employee working for a public official is budgeted to receive the same amount of pay $23,024 per year except for one of the employees in the assessor of property's office who receives $28,579 under an agreement reached years ago. This employee uses his own personal vehicle for making on-site reviews of property and is responsible for his own expense associated with that vehicle other than a county reimbursement rate for mileage which is currently 47 cents per mile for travel within the county.
Employees in the county mayor's office receive pay for extra duties in working with grants.