'Special pay' requested
Gary Pinnell | Highlands TodaySEBRING - It's actually a Christmas bonus, County Commissioner Greg Harris acknowledged, but officially, it's "special pay," and that's how it appears on the Dec. 18 Highlands County Commission agenda, in quotation marks.
Published: December 13, 2012
Published: December 13, 2012
County Administrator June Fisher said Wednesday she will ask the five county commissioners to make "special pay" part of the annual pay plan.
"That gives the board the option to approve it annually," she said. "It would come up during the budget discussions."
Whatever it's called, it's $202,553 that, if three of the five county commissioners agree, would be paid to county commission and constitutional officer employees who haven't had an across-the-board salary increase since October 2008.
Some employees are excluded, Budget Director Tim Mechling said, such as sheriff's deputies who have received raises due to union contract negotiations or tax collector employees.
"If any of the constitutional officers' employees have had the opportunity to participate in a program for salary increases, they would not be eligible to participate in this special pay," the Dec. 18 agenda item says.
The money comes from the general fund reserve, which currently has a $693,252 balance, and other funds.
"It's a small, and I mean really small, token of our appreciation," Harris said.
A bottom-up raise, it gives $400 to employees who earn up to $35,000; $300 for employees who earn from $35,001 to $50,000 and $200 for employees who earn $50,001 or more.
"I wish we could add a zero to each one," Harris said. "It's an opportunity to help those who make the least amount. We've got some people doing a lot of work for a little bit of money, so I think that's pretty equitable."
Municipalities and some constitutional officers have given raises or bonuses, Harris said. "Everyone is getting something but our folks."
The "special pay" was designed to be given at Christmas, Harris said.
Sheriff Susan Benton isn't certain whether her office will participate. She was the subject of an ethics complaint after she paid employees a $3,000 bonus she called a one-time benefit adjustment.
"It's a fine line," Benton said. "If you do a year-end pay adjustment, it can't be for work not performed."
Commissioner Don Elwell isn't certain how he'll vote.
"It's one of those items that's a very difficult one to render an opinion on," he said. "It's not as black-and-white as you would like an item to be."
County employees haven't gotten raises in four years, Elwell conceded.
"But many, many people in the county have had a pay decrease or they've lost their jobs. My concern is not whether or not they deserve it, but whether it can or should be done at this time."
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