Raise for county workers?

Budget committee crunches numbers
Mar. 23, 2013 @ 04:04 PM

Faced with a tight budget year, a county budget committee is considering how to give employees a raise.
Options include a merit raise for all who qualify and a lump sum bonus. Each percentage of a merit raise would cost the county $1 million a year, according to the latest estimates. The committee also has discussed special attention for workers earning less than $50,000 a year. 
“I think we should provide something for these people,” Republican Commissioner Alan Branson said during a recent committee meeting. “They have been struggling more in these hard times. We could do raise tiers for those above $50,000.”
Several commissioners want to see the numbers to determine the costs for tier raises and also providing a match for employee 401(k) savings plans.
“We need to see the numbers if we did an increase for those under $50,000,” said Democratic Commissioner Bruce Davis of High Point.
“We need to look at numbers to see what they would be if we matched in the 401(k) and if participation would go up based on a match,” said Republican Commissioner Jeff Phillips.
Each 1 percent of a 401(k) contribution would cost the county $790,000 a year, according to estimates. All county employees contribute 6 percent of pay to a pension plan.
County officials also are awaiting the results of a pay equity survey expected next month. Commissioners approved the survey after awarding late last year pay adjustments to 15 top administrators either hired by commissioners, elected by voters, or who report to the county manager or independent boards.
Other rank-and-file employees received a $250 bonus. The largest director increase, $14,222, went to Department of Social Services Director Robert Williams, whose salary was increased to $140,000 a year. 
The adjustments were necessary to comply with federal pay equity laws which protect women, minorities and seniors, according to county officials.
In an equity review, experts examine salaries to see how they compare with comparable jobs within and outside county government. Legal problems can arise, for example, if a new employee, hired at a market-rate salary, earns more than a veteran worker at the same job. 
Former Elections Director George Gilbert did not think his adjustment was enough and sued the county for more money before he retired. dnivens@hpe.com | 888-3626