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Commission tables pay increase for county employees

County revenue commissioner Stratt Byars appealed to the Franklin County Commission for a raise for all county employees Nov. 14 – a decision the county ultimately tabled for the time being.

“At the special called meeting Sept. 30, the Franklin County Commission approved a $1 per hour pay increase for all county employees,” began Byars in an address to the commission at its Nov. 14 work session, “and I would like to thank y’all for giving all the county employees that $1 raise.”

During the referenced Sept. 30 meeting, the commission passed its annual budget for fiscal year 2022-2023 for an approximately $14,377,822.60, with the breakdown as follows:

  • General fund: $8,422,046.61
  • Solid Waste: $2,684,170.82
  • Highway Department: $3,271,065.17

Part of the budget included a $1 raise for all county employees, as well as any step raises due, and the commission explained the budget would be subject to amendment throughout the fiscal year.

Byars noted that at the Oct. 17, the commission went on to vote to approve a $1 per hour increase for the Franklin County Sheriff’s department and jail. He said while he’s in favor of funding law enforcement – adding he didn’t want to “take anything away” from the sheriff’s department or jail – he wanted to speak on behalf of the “hardworking, dedicated employees of the revenue commissioner’s office.”

“I believe they deserve (an additional) dollar raise also,” Byars said, “and I’m going to ask for that dollar to carry over to all the county employees. I believe it’s the fair thing to do and the right thing to do, when it comes to raises, to treat everybody the same.

“Bottom line, some employees got a dollar, and some got two,” he added. “I believe that the right thing to do and the fair thing to do would be to give everybody that second dollar.”

Probate Judge Barry Moore spoke in response.

“I understand the concern and issue there,” Moore said. He said he wanted to go through some numbers pertaining to insurance, which show part of the benefits county employees have.

Moore explained starting in the 2008-2009 budget year, there was no health insurance increase, but there was a health insurance increase of 10 percent for the following budget year, 2009-2010.

“You probably remember these because you were a commissioner at that time,” added Moore, who continued, noting the following health insurance increases or lack thereof:

  • 2009-2010 budget year — 10 percent increase
  • 2010-2011 budget year — 3.2 percent increase
  • 2011-2012 budget year — 0 percent increase
  • 2012-2013 budget year — 0 percent increase
  • 2013-2014 budget year — 5 percent increase
  • 2014-2015 budget year — 0 percent increase
  • 2015-2016 budget year — 7.8 percent increase
  • 2016-2017 budget year — 4 percent increase
  • 2017-2018 budget year — 1.5 percent increase
  • 2018-2019 budget year — 5 percent increase
  • 2019-2020 budget year — 4.9 percent increase
  • 2020-2021 budget year — 5.5 percent increase
  • 2021-2022 budget year — 5.9 percent increase
  • 2022-2023 budget year — 6.4 percent increase

“You see, the last five years, our insurance has really increased,” explained Moore, “and that’s something the county has always absorbed – that we’ve never passed along to employees.”

He compared that to being something like a $16 per hour wage in consideration of the information he shared.

“That’s one on the scale,” added Moore. “That’s a $33,280 salary, for single insurance coverage,” he said, explaining health insurance in this example would be $6,632, with matching retirement of 9.03 percent on that salary being $3,005.18.

More said life insurance of $30.72 would be included, noting that’s not something paid by the employee. “The county commission absorbs that,” he said, “and that’s a $15,000 death benefit.”

He continued the scenario, stating FICA “that we have to match” would be $2,545.92.

“So, basically, what I’m getting at,” explained Moore, “is that $33,280 salary is turned into $45,493.82. Family coverage would be your same numbers except the family health insurance that the county pays is $12,456, which totals $51,317.82.”

Moore acknowledged the difference in take-home pay versus value of benefits.

“I know we’re looking at dollars people bring home,” he said. “I know the inflation’s tough. We all know that inflation is tough, but with that salary, plus all the benefits that the county commission pays, that adds up over a period time … and when we absorb the insurance increase, that’s a domino effect – just like when you do a salary increase, it has a domino effect.”

Moore said it’s for those reasons that the commission tries “to be conservative.”

“We try to be good stewards of taxpayers’ money,” he added. “Every time we do a budget, we plan ahead. We try to be conservative so we can have a good budget because Sept. 30 of every year, we have to pass a balanced budget whether we make cuts or give raises.”

Commissioner David Hester provided his input. “We lose a lot of these employees (sheriff’s department and jail) to other sectors – city police jobs, private sectors,” he explained, adding that’s why the county tries to encourage those employees to stay with the county instead of taking other jobs.

Hester said the commission isn’t saying some employees don’t deserve a raise.

“The sheriff’s department, they go through a lot of stuff,” he added. “I mean, they’re risking their lives every day.”

Byars pointed out the revenue commissioner’s office is doing its best to help improve the county’s bottom line.

“We’re doing all we can do to help save money,” Byars said. “This year, I believe we’re sending record dollars over here to the county commission. To the general fund, this year we’re going to send about $263,000 more than we did last year. To the road and bridge fund, we’re going to send $105,700 more this year than we did last year.”

He said his office had cut its general fund budget by $37,154.26.

“I know the county commission absorbs the health insurance, but I still believe that those employees deserve that dollar. Times are tough,” Byars said. “Gas and fuel, groceries, essentials, clothing, insurance, utilities, mortgage – it’s tough, it’s tough on everybody. I believe the county commission can get something together. I just believe the money’s there, and I believe it’s something that can be done.”

At the next meeting of the Franklin County Commission, Nov. 21, Franklin County Sheriff Shannon Oliver addressed the commission, explaining he wanted to come in and “publicly clear up some issues that have come up in the last week or so.”

“This started back in August,” Oliver said. “I asked for my employees a raise, but then ultimately what I asked for was a change in pay scale. Our pay scale was so far off from anybody else – Russellville, Colbert, Florence – we were just bad out of whack.”

Oliver said the employees in the sheriff’s office and jail do a lot.

“I know a lot of people say, ‘Well, if you don’t want to do that, why get in that profession?’ Well, that profession is a calling,” added Oliver. “I truly believe it’s a calling. What ultimately ended up happening was (the commission) got a dollar an hour raise for all of the (county) employees, and we did a pay scale change of roughly a dollar an hour.”

Oliver said one of the main reasons he was there was to express his and his employees’ appreciation for the increases.

“Right now, a lot of people feel they’re being attacked for some reason. I’ve had almost every one of them call me,” he added. “They’re upset. They’re thinking people don’t think they deserve it.

The Franklin County Commission went into a brief executive session. Upon resuming the meeting, Moore recommended the commission table the request “to look at in the coming months and at budget time,” he said.

The commission approved his recommendation to table the matter until a later time.

The next meeting of the Franklin County Commission is a special called meeting for Dec. 5 at 4 p.m. It falls under the solid waste department, regarding the bidding of a loan quote which is due Dec. 2 at 2 p.m. in the amount of $329,000 for five years. The special called meeting is to approve that bid.

The commission’s next regular work session will be Dec. 12 at 5 p.m., with its voting meeting Dec. 19 at 8:30 a.m.

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