Freezing raises the right idea

Published 7:00 pm Tuesday, March 10, 2009

We don’t usually agree with Pike County Commissioner Charlie Harris, but this time we do.

On Monday, Harris proposed a freeze on county employee raises for the next fiscal year, essentially nullifying the minimum 3-percent cost-of-living increases county employees receive each year.

Harris said the annual raises will cost the commission about $1 million and, given anticipated sales tax shortfalls this year, he doesn’t think the county will have the funds to spare.

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Surprisingly, his proposal met with some initial reluctance from other commission members.

We realize the county has a long tradition of annual pay increases that are not merit-based, but perhaps it’s time to revisit that policy. Given the extraordinary economic issues facing the county and our country, a little belt-tightening is called for across the board. And, with employees in the private sector simply hopeful they’ll continue to have a job next year, it’s hard for many taxpayers to endorse the concept of the county increasing debt to pay annual raises to its employees. After all this is the same group that offered an early-retirement incentive of essentially an entire year’s salary and benefits and then turned around and increased pay for remaining employees who were doing extra work, in part defeating the cost-saving measures.

Perhaps its time for the county commission to take a business approach to running the county, instead of simply doing what has always been done.