County clerk urges employee pay hikes

PARKERSBURG -Wood County Clerk Jamie Six warned county commissioners the ending balance may be less than anticipated but reminded the commission there is adequate revenue from other sources to give employees a proposed pay hike.

“It may be a stretch just to get to the $950,000 you budgeted as the ending balance,” Six told the commissioners on Monday.

The commissioners delayed a decision on a proposed $1,000 pay raise for county employees until more definitive budget numbers are available.

During a meeting last week Six told the commissioners a safe estimate for the county ending year balance would be around $950,000, but he warned it will keep changing for the next few days, and more definitive numbers would be available mid-July. The county’s fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30.

“We still have receipts coming in and as for distributing money from that, I wouldn’t do that,” Six cautioned the commission. There are currently more than 16 pending requests before the county commission for funding totaling more than $100,000 from outside agencies.

Last week and Monday, Six said there was adequate funding in additional revenues that have been collected through fees because of an increase in the number of documents copies to comply with Division of Motor Vehicle license requirements and an increased number of oil and gas industry deeds to fund $1,000 pay raises for county employees. Six said the cost of the pay raises would be $180,644.

“You should have stated that at our last meeting. I feel you mislead us. You told us last week we had more money. I’ve been getting phone calls from the Multicultural and North Hills and several other people wanting more money,” Commissioner Steve Gainer said.

“That is exactly what I told you at the last meeting and what I’ve said all along,” Six said. “The funds for the proposed employee pay raises would not come from the ending balance, that revenue is available from other revenue streams within your budget, to give the employees a $1,000 raise. You haven’t given this much discussion to funding outside agencies for what you say are quality-of-life issues, but the employees have quality-of-life issues too. They have seen a tax increase, and the insurance for a family plan has gone up. You haven’t given an across-the-board pay raise for the employees for quite a while,” Six said.

The commissioners have, in the last few years, given one-time pay raises, and given employees a one-time bonus from health insurance savings and a longevity pay increase in 2011.

“Now you’ve got me worried, because one of our priorities is a pay raise. Now it’s looking like we may not have that money because those revenue sources that have gone up now, we don’t know how long it’s going to be there,” commission President Wayne Dunn said.

Commissioner Blair Couch said there are salary differences that exist between the offices for employees doing similar jobs, noting the new hire wages for different departments varies anyone from $21,000-$22,000 to more than $29,000.

“Plus we can’t tell the county officials what to do with money we give them in their budget. They could take and have taken funds from salaries to buy equipment or for other things, that’s the choice they made,” Couch noted.

“I think we all agree and would be willing to sign an agreement if we need to on this, in order to have this money for our employees,” Circuit Clerk Carole Jones told the commissioners.

“An equalization of the pay, at this point, could be very costly,” Six noted.

“You have given out a lot more money than is being requested for the employee pay raises to these outside agencies, which is fine if you had the money available, but you have done it at times on the back of your employees,” Six said. “You have funded a lot of other things you feel are important and not funded the reason we’re here, and that’s to run government.”

“I am concerned, right now we’d have to take the money out of contingencies,” Couch noted.

“We need to have more definite numbers,” Dunn said. “I think we also need to develop a set pay scale.”

“We could get all the elected officials in one room and talk about the salaries and how to address this,” Couch said.

County officials discussed the possibility of giving differing amounts to different employees based on their current pay scale to head toward a more equalized pay, or go ahead and give $500 now and consider more later in the budget year.

Dunn made a motion to give a $500 pay hike effective July and later consider additional funding and try to work toward equalization of pay. That motion died for lack of a second. Couch then made a motion to appropriate $350 for the employees to cover their tax and health insurance increases, that motion was later withdrawn. Gainer moved to give the $1,000 pay raise, that motion died for lack of a second.

The commissioners ultimately voted to table a decision until their next meeting July 8. The commission is scheduled to meet again on July 4, but that is a holiday.