County employees to get raise

Quorum Court approves 3.8 percent payroll hike for 2016

By Mark Randall news@theeveningtimes.com

County employees will be getting a 3.8 percent raise in 2016. The Quorum Court finished its budget hearings and will vote on a nearly $18 million budget next week that includes the payroll hike. County Judge Woody Wheeless said justices have always tried to include raises in each year’s budget. “Everyone will receive something this year,” Wheeless said. Employees did not get a raise in 2015 due to concerns about the hospital. The county was forced to pay about $100,000 a month to keep the utilities on and to secure and insure the county-owned facility after it went bankrupt. “There have been very few years since I have been a Quorum Court member over the last 13 years that we didn’t give raises,” Wheeless said. “The hospital situation put that on hold on last year’s budget. When we picked up that responsibility we couldn’t afford to do it.” Employees got 5 percent raise in 2013. Wheeless said criticism that they weren’t going to give employees raises was unfounded. The criticism appeared in Text the Times and appears to have come from an employee at the county jail. “They made it sound in the paper like they haven’t gotten anything,” Wheeless said. “It’s just not true at all.” Wheeless said Sheriff Mike Allen has worked hard to bring salaries up at both the sheriff’s office and the jail. “He has worked to help every one of those jailers out,” Wheeless said. The county has about 300 employees. Allen said he finds it hard to believe that the complaints came from a jail employee. Several employees stopped by his office to thank him for the raises. “I don’t think it is coming from the jail,” Allen said. “I’ve talked to just about everybody in jail.” Allen attributed the phony attacks about no pay raises being given to politics targeted at Justice Vickie Robertson, who is running for re-election. Allen praised Robertson and the members of the Quorum Court and said she is one of the best public officicials he has ever worked with. “I don’t think I have ever had a better group of individuals to work with,” Allen said. “With the exception of last year, they have given us raises every single year. And they have been really good cost of living raises. Justice Robertson really studies the budget and you have to really be prepared to justify any requests. They studied the budget and decided they could afford this. And the people in the jail couldn’t be any happier.” Allen said there has been a lot of turnover in the jail because the starting pay is only $9.18 an hour. As of last month, he had 17 vacancies at the jail. “At $9.18 an hour, they look at that and know they can push carts at Wal Mart an dmake $10 an hour,” Allen said. “They see the conditions at the jail and for $9.19 an hour why would they risk their lives. It’s because of the pay. And we have addressed this.” Some employees already received raises during the year when they were voted on separately. “There will be some that already got some payroll adjustment prior to that,” Wheeless said.

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