County budget: Salary adjustments aimed at addressing disparity
Some Carroll County employees will be receiving salary increases in 2019 in an effort to remedy disparities in pay between employees performing similar duties, and all hourly employees of the county will get a raise of 70 cents an hour — provided their department heads submit the proper paperwork.
The Carroll County Quorum Court’s joint budget and finance committee met Monday night to discuss the salary adjustments and raises that are intended to be included in the county’s 2019 budget.
The salary adjustments will be made in the offices of the county clerk, assessor, collector, treasurer and circuit clerk. District 7 Justice of the Peace Noreen Watson has spearheaded the effort to implement the salary adjustments, comparing the salaries paid to county employees within those departments and to employees of similar Arkansas counties.
“We’ve been trying for years and years to do some kind of study on salaries and we just kept getting shut down,” said District 1 JP Jack Deaton, the committee chair. “Noreen took it on this year to look at the other counties comparable to us and took an overall average. (Circuit Clerk Ramona Wilson) had clerks that were making less than $12 an hour, 11 bucks an hour. … So we’re trying to balance them out. And so we gave significant raises to some people out here, and we also gave 70 cents an hour across the board to all timecard people.”
Deaton said the committee had considered giving a 5 percent raise to all hourly employees but that would mean some employees got more of an increase.
“The county has done that many years in the past,” he said. “I hate seeing that because when you give a percentage raise, the low people still get the little-bitty raise and the higher-paid people get a bigger raise, and they’re all doing the same job.”
Deaton said it’s important for the county to pay its employees a competitive salary to reduce turnover.
“We’re trying to get an overall average of all the other counties like us, what their average is, we’re trying to beat that,” he said. “We gave a substantial amount of raises this year. There may not be any next year, but this year we’re trying to get people up. We’re losing people.”
Elected officials will receive a 5 percent salary increase.
Watson said Carroll County has fallen behind other similar counties in employee salaries despite having what she described as “really solid revenue.”
Watson said the committee hopes to address pay disparities in the sheriff’s office and the road department next year.
“We just couldn’t do everything this year,” she said. “But I think next year, they’ll look into giving salary adjustments in those other two departments.”
The salary adjustments in the collector’s and assessor’s office will be paid from commissions earned by those offices, Collector Kay Phillips said, and won’t impact the county’s general fund. Those commissions can only be used to fund operations of the respective offices, and commissions that aren’t used for that purpose are passed along to other taxing entities — primarily schools.
Watson said she has discovered that a significant percentage of county employees have less than two years’ experience, which she attributed in part to low pay.
“If we’re not paying enough, then we’re going to have this kind of turnover and we can’t afford it,” she said. “It’s more expensive than the pay increases that we’re giving. … I think this is the time and certainly we have the ability to do it financially.”
The budget committee typically finishes its work in November but the salary adjustments and other factors have resulted in a longer process this year. Deaton said he wants to present a proposed budget ordinance at the quorum court’s monthly meeting on Dec. 17. The deadline for filing proposed ordinances is Friday, and County Clerk Jamie Correia said she has not received the required information from several department heads.
“Send me an email tomorrow, and if they don’t get them turned in, we’ll go with last year’s,” Deaton said.
Correia said she sent all department heads instructions on how to calculate the raises for their employees. Deaton asked Correia to send another email and use his name if necessary.
“I’ve done sent out one. I’m not doing no more,” Correia said. “I’m sorry, Jack.”
In response to a suggestion from District 5 JP Matt Phillips, Correia said she could forward the original email to Deaton. But she noted again that quorum court packets for the Dec. 17 meeting are due Friday and said she won’t work late to get them prepared.
“I am not working past 4:30 and I won’t work on the weekend,” she said. “I’ve done it for 10 years, and I’m done. I didn’t get nothing out of that, nothing. I don’t mind working the hours. … I’m not going to be used anymore. You all need to take care of yourselves.”
Correia, who is nearing the end of her fifth term in office, lost a re-election bid to Connie Doss in the November general election. Doss will take office Jan. 1.