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Budget passes with small raise for county employees

Due to restrictions that require the county to give a set notice on the finalization of each year’s budget, last month’s county commission meeting required a recess to allow a special budget meeting. This meeting was held last Tuesday night, with 12 commissioners present.
County Mayor Dick Grayson presented the new budget to the commission and began by stating that the biggest increase was on the part of the election commission, which must now meet new state requirements. Grayson stated that everything else had remained relatively the same.
The county did not increase any positions this year. There was also one point of business that would shift one item of funding to a new category within the sheriff’s department.
The big issue of the night, however, came when Grayson brought up the issue of giving the county employees a raise.
According to Grayson it has been three years since the county gave its employees a raise, and although the budget committee voted against a raise several months ago, new figures show that it would be possible to give up to a three percent raise. At three percent the county would have to pay approximately $40,000 to cover the raise plus more than $10,000 for benefits, with a total cost of approximately $60,000. Other figures were also given to the commissioners at a lesser percentage with a decrease in the total cost each time.
Following some discussion on the various costs of various rates, Commissioner John Brookshire stated that while he supported the county employees, he thought it would be more beneficial to the county taxpayers to wait until the end of the year and give bonuses. This would better protect the county’s funding in case something comes up through the year that would require immediate attention.
Other commissioners cited that it had been several years since the employees were given a raise and although the economic situation of the county is not at its best, there is a healthy fund balance in the budget that would cover the cost. Following this discussion, Commissioner Roby Dunn made a motion to accept the full three percent raise, which was seconded by Commissioner Larry Potter. The motion passed eight to four, with commissioners John Brookshire, Jimmy Lowe, Jerry Grindstaff, and Dean Stout voting against, and commissioners Bill Adams, Glenn Arney, Lester Dunn, Roby Dunn, Freddy Phipps, Emily Millsaps, Larry Potter, and Jack Proffitt voting in favor.
Following the vote, School Superintendent Morris Woodring spoke before the commission stating that in the budget committee meeting that originally voted down the raises, Woodring was promised that if any raises were to be given, the schools’ support staff would be included as well. The support staff is made up of all non-professional school personnel including bus drivers, cafeteria workers, teachers’ assistants, janitors, and maintenance workers.
Acknowledging that this had been discussed, the commission requested an approximate amount that would be required to include these employees as well. According to Woodring, to cover the more than 120 employees would cost an additional $100,000. Several questions were asked about whether or not the teachers were scheduled to receive a raise, to which Woodring stated that there were currently no plans to do so, and only a slight possibility of a bonus for the teachers from the state later on.
However due to certain restrictions, funding cannot go to the schools from the county’s fund balance and therefore the county cannot give the school support staff a raise as it can the general county employees. Chairman Freddy Phipps asked if the funding could come from within the schools’ own budget, but Woodring stated that this would require the action of the school board, which he has no authority over.
Following no further discussion on the issue, the commission moved on to accept the budget with the changes that the commission had made.
For complete details please pick up your copy of this weeks, The Tomahawk, available at local newsstands this week..