|Huff says money is available in county funds due to budget savings|
Friday, September 21, 2012
By CHARLES BOOTHE - Staff Writer
A raise for all Franklin County employees, including school employees, is back on the table, but how much is still in question.
Boone District Supervisor Ronnie Thompson told the board Tuesday that employees have not had a raise in almost five years.
"We need to come up with something to reward our employees," he said. "It's time we take into account the work they have done (during the economic downturn)."
Thompson suggested giving all employees for both the county and school system who make more than $50,000 a year a 2.5-percent raise, and a 3.5-percent raise to those who make less than $50,000 annually.
To qualify for the raise, an employee would have to have been on the job for at least a year, he added.
Thompson said the money for the raises would have to come from the county because the school system can't afford it.
"They (school board) don't have the money," he said. "They are looking at laying off employees next year, so I don't know where the money is going to come from (in the school budget)."
"But where is the money going to come from in the county's budget?" asked Snow Creek Supervisor Leland Mitchell.
"I believe the county has the money to do that," Thompson said, adding that it could be taken from the county's $12 million fund balance.
The fund balance is about 10 percent of the county's total budget, a fund that ebbs and flows during the year but maintains the $12 million average. That 10 percent, county officials say, is needed to maintain a high bond rating, which the county now has.
Mitchell pointed out that taking that money for ongoing expenses may affect the bond rating, which allows the county to borrow money at a low interest rate.
Blue Ridge District Supervisor Bobby Thompson said that while he agrees that a raise is needed, "I am very reluctant to spend one-time money (from the fund balance) for ongoing expenses."
Gills Creek Supervisor Bob Camicia agreed and said any raise must be covered in the current budget levels.
County Administrator Rick Huff said the county does have enough ongoing revenue to cover the extra money, possibly a combination of a small percentage raise, plus a bonus.
"I think we need to do something," Huff said. "I think we are able to do something."
"It's overdue and needed," Bobby Thompson said. "I definitely think we need to do it."
"I think we can do a small raise now and small bonus now," Huff said, adding that the money can be covered in the budget this year, as well as next because of savings.
Supervisors asked Huff to research the specifics of what the county can afford and come back next month with a recommendation.