County leadership recommends raises for county employees

By CHRISTINE BOATWRIGHT / Staff Writer

COLUMBIANA – During a Shelby County Commission meeting June 11, County Manager Alex Dudchock recommended potential raises for eligible county employees.

Property Tax Commissioner Don Armstrong, Probate Judge Jim Fuhrmeister, County Engineer Randy Cole and Dudchock made the recommendation to the commission.

If the county commission approves the request during the June 25 meeting, approximately 250 county employees, excluding employees in the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office and jail and those ineligible due to personnel policies, may see merit or step raise increases during the first full pay period in July. Eligible employees of the Sheriff’s Office and jail have already received step increases, according to the recommendation.

County employees have not received merit or step raises for the past three years due to the economic downturn.

“Along with the cost reduction and containment measures taken to reduce the day-to-day operating expenses, county employees stepped up in other days,” according to the recommendation.

The county decreased the county’s general fund budget by more than 10 percent since the 2007-08 fiscal year. County employees participated in the wellness program available through the State Employees Insurance Board.

During the 2010-11 fiscal year, about 46 percent of county employees participated in the wellness program, which resulted in “significant savings to the county,” the recommendation stated.

For 2011-12, more than 80 percent of county employees participated in the wellness program, and this action made the county eligible for rate group reduction.

“In looking at the financial information for the first six months of this fiscal year, we understand that we are not completely recovered from the past several fiscal years,” the recommendation stated. “The fact is we may never get back to the average yearly increases we experienced in the 1990s and early 2000s.

“However, we are comfortable that we have reached a sustainable level of revenue and expenditures under the new operating paradigm,” the recommendation read.

Funding for the proposal would be taken from savings accumulated by employees’ participation in the wellness plan, not from the general fund reserves.

According to the proposal, the raises would occur one time, and the recommenders are not proposing the county renew a past program of yearly step increases.

“When you run into an employee, I would appreciate if you would look them in the eye and thank them,” Dudchock told the commission June 11. “It’s the employer who’s getting the benefit.”

The commission has not voted on the proposal at this time.

“There are brighter days ahead,” Commission Chairman Corley Ellis said.