The proposed county budget for fiscal year 2013 includes money for raises for the first time in four years.
”The total increase for the whole budget, as far as salaries and benefits, is $1,120,000,” said County Judge Bill McElhaney. Commissioners agreed at a workshop Wednesday to move forward with the proposal.
Increases in pay to elected officials would total $87,000. Additional money given to each official includes an increase in salary and his or her annual increase in longevity, plus an increase in vehicle allowance for some officials. If an official accepted the phone allowance, instead of keeping their phone as provided by the county, that is also included in his or her “raise.”
Elected officials who will see the biggest increase in pay, according to the proposed budget, include: Treasurer Katherine Hudson, $9,300; County Clerk Sherry Lemon, $8,100; and Sheriff David Walker, $8,100. The judge proposed a $2,500 raise for commissioners, and a $6,000 raise for himself.
“It just doesn’t seem quite straight that some might be as low as 3.7 and others might be 8 or 9 percent,” said Precinct 3 Commissioner Harry Lamance.
The judge explained that everyone has different jobs. He allocated money for raises “based on what he’d observed and what had happened over the last year. There were some areas where I tried to do some equalization to keep things in sync,” he said.
“Let’s take the sheriff … if you look at the budget and the amount of people he oversees … Harry, all jobs aren’t the same,” McElhaney said.
Lamance said he didn’t agree.
“And I like that young man a lot,” he said, referencing Walker. “If we had two or three foremen and six lead men, I could run a whole lot of employees. … I’ve just got one vote, and I’ve spoke my peace.”
McElhaney explained that the increase in elected officials’ pay represents less than $100,000 or about 10 percent of the entire increase. He then directed a comment at Lamance wondering if he and Commissioner Terry Ross had been discussing issues outside of court.
“I hope you haven’t been talking about this,” said the judge, clearly agitated. “You’re reflecting some things that I’ve heard are things (Ross) has said.”
Ross said McElhaney was making things up.
“You’re pulling things out of the air. Ain’t no one reflecting anything,” he said.
Lamance raised his voice, saying: “I get defensive about that because I’m not pulling nothing … no where!”
“If you want to go through the budget and tear up the whole damn thing, then fine,” a red-faced McElhaney said. “Fine.”
Lamance also questioned the increases in vehicle allowances and why they were given to some officials but not others.
“I think next year I’ll delegate some of this so you can work it out,” said the judge.
“It just doesn’t look right on paper,” Lamance said.
In the midst of this discussion, Lamance and Ross also were indicating they would like to see commissioners get another $2,000, on top of the $2,500 proposed by the judge.
“It kind of makes the commissioners look like monkeys if they vote on an increase (for themselves),” said Lamance.
Precinct 1 Commissioner Danny White told the judge he did a good job with the budget.
“I know Harry said he would trade jobs with David (Walker) for his salary … I wouldn’t trade jobs with anybody,” he said. “And I think you’ve done a dadgum good job. We’ve always got questions, but you’ve done a good job.”
Ross made the motion to accept the proposed increases in elected officials’ salaries and add $2,000 to the commissioners’ salaries.
White and Precinct 2 Commissioner Kevin Burns immediately expressed opposition to the idea.
“I’ll take my $2,500. That’s all I want,” White said. “I don’t know if we can do that or not.”
“I’d like to think I’m far from a greedy person, but that doesn’t seem out of line compared to some of the other increases,” Lamance said. He seconded the motion.
Lamance and Ross voted in favor of the motion; White and Burns voted against.
McElhaney cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of the motion adding $2,000.
“I respected what Burns and White were saying,” McElhaney told the Messenger Thursday, “but for the betterment of everyone in the whole county employment system, I wanted to get this done and move forward. Everyone had agreed with everything to that point.
“What we were talking about at that particular moment was the difference in commissioners’ views,” he said. “I think Lamance and Ross were looking at the position of commissioners, whereas Burns and White were looking at the whole county.”
McElhaney also said he agreed to the additional $2,000 because it further solidified the pay structure to make sure that the differences in pay adequately represent the difference in position and responsibility.
McElhaney said Thursday that since raises had not been given in three years, he took a hard look at increases in responsibility and work over that entire time period.
“For example, there’s been a tremendous increase in volume with the treasurer,” he said. “In larger counties, they have a treasurer and human resources manager, but in smaller counties, like ours, the treasurer does both.”
In regard to the sheriff’s increase, McElhaney referenced the growth of the jail and the animal shelter.
“The animal control shelter is bigger and better than what we had in 2008,” he said. “I looked at that and tried to make progressive recognition.
“When I first came in 2007, prior to that, everyone in the major offices was making the same, and I had a different perspective.”