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County still determining impact of raises

Pike County Commissioners are still waiting to hear what impact their decision to award 1.5 percent cost of living raises will have on the fiscal year 2011 budget.

“We’re waiting (for someone) to give us the numbers of where we stand right now,” Commission chairman Jimmy Barron said Wednesday.

That process is not an easy one, said Harry Sanders, county administrator.

“It takes a little bit longer than what folks might think,” Sanders said late Wednesday. “Not only do we have to change pay rates, but also benefits. And that’s what carries you farthest in making changes in the budget.”

Commissioners decided Tuesday they would give all county employees a 1.5 percent cost of living raise, effective Oct. 1. They plan to approve that raise with the fiscal year 2011 budget, which should be approved during the Monday meeting of the commission.

However, commissioners do not know exactly how much those raises will cost the county.

Previously, Sanders had told commissioners that awarding a 3 percent anniversary raise to all county employees would cost the county approximately $43,065 in the general fund budget, because the raises would be staggered across the 12-month period and tied to each employee’s anniversary date.

“Because these cost-of-living raises would all take effect Oct. 1, the effect will be different,” Sanders said. “I don’t have exact figures yet, and I’m just guessing, but I think it will be about the same amount (as the impact of the 3 percent anniversary raises).”

Sanders said county employees are facing a 3.2 percent increase in health insurance costs, and the 1.5 percent cost of living raise helps offset those costs.

“We’re trying to help them offset that,” Barron said. “We knew we couldn’t do 3 percent, but I think we wanted to do something.”

Oren Fannin, District 6 commissioner, said the 1.5 percent cost of living raise is a “good trade off.” “They get their raises now, instead of having to wait for their anniversary date, and next year come Oct. 1, we carry over a 1.5 percent raise on all employees, instead of a 3 percent raise.”

Barron, Fannin and Commissioner Robin Sullivan all said Tuesday night they would decline their raises and challenged other elected officials to do the same. “I don’t think any elected official should accept the raise,” Barron said.

Commissioner Charlie Harris said the decision was “a compromise” to help out with the insurance. “At first I believed they wouldn’t have gotten any raise at all,” he said.

And, as of Wednesday, he said he was still unsure if he would accept the 1.5 percent raise. “They don’t have to take it, but if we gave an across-the-board raise, the omnibus bill says we have to give it across the board,” Harris said. “You never know who takes it until you get that payroll check.”

Still, Harris said, with commissioners deciding to grant cost of living raises and deciding to add an employee to the Pike County EMA budget, but choosing not to reduce expenses anywhere in the budget, he said he is concerned the county continues to spend too much money. Harris was among the commissioners who opposed efforts to reduce the commissioners’ discretionary funds from a total of $27,600 for all commissioners to $12,000 for the group.

“Let’s stop giving raises and let’s stop hiring folks,” he said. “The people of this county expect the county commissioners to be good stewards of their money and that’s what we need to be all about.”