The County Commission Monday night voted to ante up more money to give county general and sheriff’s department employees pay raises retroactive to January 1 but a proposal to increase pay for EMS staff under a plan proposed by Second District Commissioner Joe Johnson was not approved although it may be considered again soon.
Upset by the move, Johnson resigned from the commission in protest saying he was ashamed of the body’s actions and no longer wanted to be part of this group.
Near the end of the meeting, Johnson passed his resignation letter to County Mayor Tim Stribling and asked him to read it to the commission.
(VIEW VIDEO OF COUNTY COMMISSION MEETING HERE)
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"I am writing this letter to inform you (County Mayor and County Commission) that I am resigning my position as County Commissioner, 2nd District.
I feel that I am not as effective as I should be in my duties as a commissioner. The decision was not an easy one to make. My work to make the pay equal in all departments has failed.
I feel the commission does not realize how important it is to treat all the employees the same.
I do not want to be a part of a commission that raises some departments and ignores others.
As of March 1, 2018, I resign as a County Commissioner," the letter concluded.
Johnson said the ambulance service has lost several employees within the last year and will lose more if they are not paid more.
“There are sixteen full time positions with the ambulance service. In 2017, twenty people quit to go to other counties for more money. Ten of those are paramedics. Today I had three paramedics to tell me after tonight they will be resigning unless they get a raise. We are losing our ambulance service,” said Johnson.
Had the entire proposal been approved as presented for the sheriff’s department staff, EMS, and county general employees), it would have added to the budget $269,792 dollars in new spending ($76,023 of that for the ambulance service) for the six month period from January 1 through June 30 this year possibly forcing the county to spend up to $894,000 of its $4 million general fund cash reserves (fund balance) although County Mayor Tim Stribling said he thought it might not be that much. “I don’t think we will go into the fund balance that much but we will more than we have in the last few years. We had budgeted for 2016-17 going into cash $554,441 but we didn’t go into cash by that much. We actually went into cash by $127, 427 which left a fund balance of $4,078,531,” said Stribling.
Third District Commissioner Jack Barton made a motion to move forward with the proposals for county general and sheriff’s department employees and to re-evaluate the pay of ambulance service staff for the 2018-19 budget. “I would like to do a more indepth analysis of the emergency services. The EMS is deserving of a raise as well but I want to try and make sure that we are competitive with all the counties we’ve compared against and that we are making the best financial decision,” said Barton.
Fifth District Commissioner Jerry Adcock offered a second to Barton’s motion.
Fifth District Commissioner Anita Puckett then moved to table Barton’s motion “so we can have more time to reappraise all this and maybe have a special called meeting to discuss this. First and foremost we don’t have any proposals on how we are going to pay for these salary increases but I know that it may be a tax increase and that’s going to be huge. I just feel like we all need some more time to absorb this and look at all our different options and if we decide to pass it next month we can go ahead and allow them to have their pay increases from January, February, and March. But definitely we need more discussion,” said Puckett.
First District Commissioner Julie Young seconded Puckett’s motion to table.
Before the vote, Sheriff Patrick Ray urged the commission not to delay on raises for his employees because they haven’t had one in four years. Although the county commission last July voted to freeze wages of all county general employees until at least January due to budget concerns, raises had already been given two years ago under a new wage scale to other county employees as well as a 4% raise to EMS staff.
“Eight months ago we passed a budget and the sheriff’s department was up for a pay increase for employees. We brought some figures over here to give to the budget committee but the budget committee wasn’t for sure at that time how we were going to come out of last year’s budget so they asked all the county employees including the raises we were up for to be put off until January to be able to see how the year ended whether we were in the plus or minus and if we could afford the raises. We got to January and began talking with the budget committee and we got put off until February and that’s how we wound up here tonight. While we have waited at the sheriff’s department for a year and eight months for my employees’ raises, everyone else has still been getting their raises. The county’s secretaries have been getting them. The directors at those places have been getting them while my employees have been waiting. If we set and wait another month or wait until the next budget year then we’re that much further behind,” he said.
Sheriff Ray said his department has also lost employees within the last year for better pay elsewhere.
“I went back to July 1 of this last year and since then I have lost nine employees with probably 50 plus years of experience. I had a Chief Deputy to leave because of money and that was the only reason he left. He got offered a better job. Some of the other directors were getting $6,600 more a year than what my Chief Deputy was making. I also have sixteen correctional officers, three secretaries, two litter guards, a cook, and all the deputies and they were making below him. We’re way behind on what we should be making. The county also takes 5% of their checks which goes to retirement. And if they have insurance, the insurance offered by the county is usually higher than what they can get through a private insurance company. All those things put together makes a hardship to work at the sheriff’s department,” he said.
After hearing from Sheriff Ray, Commissioner Young rescinded her second to Puckett’s motion to table. However Fourth District Commissioner Jonathan Norris moved to second the motion “for one month only because I want to make sure that everybody gets the raises that need to and that we can fund it properly and not put ourselves in too much jeopardy in doing so,” said Norris.
Sixth District Commissioner Betty Atnip then moved to amend the motion to table by voting only on the sheriff’s department raises and to table the others for 30 days. Third District member Bradley Hendrix offered a second to Atnip’s motion.
Atnip’s motion failed on a 9-5 vote. Those voting in favor were Betty Atnip, Anita Puckett, Bradley Hendrix, Jerry Adcock, and Julie Young. Voting no were Wayne Cantrell, Larry Summers, Kevin Robinson, Joe Johnson, Jimmy Midgett, Jeff Barnes, Jonathan Norris, Jack Barton, and Mason Carter.
A vote was then taken on Puckett’s motion to table the salary increases for one month and it failed 10-4. Those voting in favor were Betty Atnip, Anita Puckett, Jonathan Norris and Julie Young. Voting no were Jerry Adcock, Wayne Cantrell, Larry Summers, Bradley Hendrix, Kevin Robinson, Joe Johnson, Jimmy Midgett, Jeff Barnes, Jack Barton, and Mason Carter.
Commissioner Young then seconded Barton’s original motion to move forward in funding the raises for the county general employees and the sheriff’s department and to further study EMS salaries.
Commissioner Johnson moved to amend Barton’s motion and approve raises for employees in all three departments, county general, sheriff’s department, and EMS. Second District Commissioner Jimmy Midgett seconded the motion.
Johnson’s motion failed on a 7-6-1 vote.
Those voting in favor were Joe Johnson, Jimmy Midgett, Jeff Barnes, Bradley Hendrix, Kevin Robinson, and Mason Carter.
Voting no were Wayne Cantrell, Jerry Adcock, Larry Summers, Betty Atnip, Jonathan Norris, Anita Puckett, and Jack Barton. Julie Young abstained.
A vote followed on Barton’s motion to move forward in funding the raises for the county general employees and the sheriff’s department and to further study EMS salaries. The motion was adopted on an 11 to 3 vote.
Those voting in favor were Betty Atnip, Larry Summers, Jerry Adcock, Bradley Hendrix, Julie Young, Jeff Barnes, Wayne Cantrell, Jonathan Norris, Kevin Robinson, Anita Puckett, and Jack Barton.
Voting no were Jimmy Midgett, Joe Johnson, and Mason Carter.
Following the final vote, Commissioner Norris asked that a special meeting be scheduled soon to discuss addressing EMS wages.