Commissioner Rhonda Wallace said she realizes finances remain tight, but an increase — if only by 1 percent — should be a budgeting priority for 2013.
“I know it’s not much, but it does show them we care, and we’re trying to do something,” she said. “Not only are they not getting raises, but they’re being asked to work harder because of unfilled positions.”
There are about 660 employees covering 720 authorized positions because of attrition combined with a hiring freeze, County Manager Blaine Williams said.
But a 1 percent across-the-board raise would cost approximately $250,000, and Wallace’s push did not net universal support from the board.
“It’s been a hard four years, and we know they need one but we’d have to decide where we’d cut expenses to make up for it,” Commission Chairman Irwin Bagwell said.
An outside survey comparing Floyd’s pay rates with those of surrounding and comparable counties recommended raises and changes to the pay rate structure.
The County Commission implemented half the recommendations for public safety personnel in July 2008, but the recession ended plans to phase in the rest of the changes.
Commissioner John Mayes said nearby jurisdictions, including the city of Rome, are hiring away experienced employees. The 13 percent turnover rate for certified police officers is of special concern, he noted.
“We’re losing them after we train them, and that’s a big loss,” Mayes said. “You’ve heard the old saying about being penny-wise and pound-foolish.”
Rome city employees received 2-percent raises this year; their first pay hike since 2008. Bagwell said county employees’ situations are gradually improving.
“We were on furloughs, and now we’re not. … We were hanging on by our fingernails but we got by without cutting any employees,” he said. “We kept up their pension payments, and they still get longevity checks in July and December.”
Williams said there may be several options for improving employee morale without breaking the bank — such as one-time bonuses, paid leave that combines vacation and sick days, early retirement offers and health plan innovations.
“There could be some chess pieces we could move around,” he said.
The discussion took place during the board’s two-day planning retreat this week. Moderator Dave Wills of the Association County Commissioners of Georgia said the issue could become more urgent in 2013, if lawmakers pass a raise for state employees.