ROGERSVILLE — The Hawkins County Commission’s Personnel Committee voted Tuesday to recommend a new salary scale that might be better for the affected county employees, but will increase payroll expenditures $514,659 after three years.
The biggest problem is that once an employee is hired at a certain pay grade, he or she stays in that grade forever, with no pay advancement for years of service.
An employee’s best hope for a pay increase is if the county commission has enough funding for a fiscal year to include a cost of living increase in the budget.
Rewarding all employees for longevity
On Tuesday, Personnel Committee Chairman Mark DeWitte presented a fairly simple, albeit expensive solution to that problem. Keep the same pay scale, but reward employees for longevity through 10 annual step raises.
Employees in the sheriff’s office, school system, and highway department all operate on their own departmental budget and their own salary scale which allows for regular pay increases for longevity — so DeWitte’s proposal won’t affect them
Another approximately 97 county employees are paid from the general fund and work for elected officeholders or under the mayor’s direction and are stuck in that stagnant salary scale from 2014.
“People are stuck in their salary”
“Obviously, we want to be fair to all the employees in the county with a fair salary,” DeWitte said. “We want them to be recognized for their years of service. We want to present something that’s workable and fair to everybody.”
DeWitte added, “What we’re thinking can be done is to leave the 12 salary grades in place, and then, as people move up in years of service, they would get a step raise.”
Those proposed 10 step raises would be in addition to any cost of living raise the county commission might approve in a fiscal year budget.
“This has come up at commission meetings every budget cycle, and everybody knows that the current scale is basically broken,” DeWitte said. “The numbers on it haven’t changed since 2014 ... and people are stuck in their salary.”
The new salary scale will be expensive
DeWitte proposed implementing the new salary scale gradually over the course of three years, which would increase payroll expenditures by $171,553 each year just to get current employees up to where they belong on the new pay scale.
Finance Director Eric Buchanan told the committee it’s too early to predict if the 2019-20 budget would be able to afford that new expenditure.
“Our job as a Personnel Committee is not to figure out where that money is going to come from,” DeWitte said. “Our job is to say, ‘You asked us to fix the salary scale. Here’s what we think will fix it’ and pass this on the Budget Committee.”
The Personnel Committee voted 6-0 to forward the proposed salary scale to the Budget Committee for consideration.
DeWitte said, “This is our recommendation to the Budget Committee. Let’s see if you all can find a way to fund it. But we agree this is something that needs to be done.”
Commissioners comment on the proposal
“The biggest asset this county has is its employees, and we have to take care of them,” said Commissioner Tom Kern. “I see some of these scales, and I would be embarrassed to offer you that kind of money to come to work. If I was the only member of the family working, and I had two or three dependents depending on me, at some of these salaries I’m going to be getting aid somewhere else.”
Commissioner Danny Alvis noted that he had spoke recently with AEP officials whose expansion on the east end of the county will increase property tax revenue by $2 million annually. But those funds won’t be available for two fiscal years.
Alvis said some of the new AEP property tax revenue could go toward the salary scale, but he also wants some to go toward reducing the wheel tax.
County Clerk Nancy Davis noted that employees paid under the general fund have gone five years without a raise.
“They have gotten some cost of living adjustments, which is not a raise,” she added. “We just had a discussion about treating all employees the same with this (health) insurance situation. ... If we’re going to treat all our employees the same, let’s put these employees, who are five years (overdue for) a raise on a compensation scale that will give them some incentive to stay here and work in our county.”