The Union Recorder

October 29, 2013

County budget has no room for raises

Kyle Collins
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — Baldwin County’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget doesn’t include more money for employees.

At an Oct. 22 called budget meeting, County Finance Director Dawn Hudson said she worked really hard to find employee raises. The Carl Vinson Institute salary study recommended $507,000 worth of salary and benefit increases for all county employees.

“It’s something I feel like they deserve and have not had for several years. I feel like I’ve let them down because I couldn’t find it. It’s not there in the current budget,” Hudson said. 

The $18.5 million balanced budget proposal has a mere $41,300 extra revenue compared to $1.2 million in actual county department requests. That small revenue total comes via department cuts.

“That $41,000 is all we had to work with unless you cut something from somewhere else,” County Chairman Sammy Hall, District 3, said.

Since 2008, Baldwin County lost $72 million of tax digest equating to $400,000 worth of revenue shortfall. These losses led to the fifth straight county budget cut.

Any department increases included in the budget proposal are either mandated or generally unavoidable operational cost increases. 

The county didn’t include any new funding for outside agencies beyond current funding levels.

Hudson said departments are working at a bare bones clip. County employees have dealt with increased insurance premiums and fewer benefits.

No tenure pay scales are available for county workers. People working for one or five years make the same.

“Salary increases cost money, but this is a government and the main part of our expense is service,” Hudson said. “That includes the cost of our employees who do a good job for this county and don’t get a whole lot of credit.”

As drafted, the Fiscal Year 2014 budget doesn’t pass any of the additional Affordable Health Care projected costs on to employees.

The cuts, totaling $133,000 to make up for the health care requirements, come at the expense of county services.

Commissioner Henry Craig, District 4, doesn’t like it.

“We owe our employees a raise as soon as we can, yet one of the reasons we aren’t giving them a raise is that Affordable Health Care costs a lot more,” Craig said.

County Attorney David McRee reminded the county body the budget is a fluid document.

“Budgets can be amended throughout the year. That’s up to y’all to decide what you want to do now with this 2014 budget, but that certainly doesn’t prohibit you any time from deciding you want to do something different,” McRee said. “It can be as simple as a departmental increase or as complex as raises for employees.”

Commissioner Johnny Westmoreland, District 5, said, “let’s stop looking at things a year at a time and start looking down the road three or four years.”

“That process hasn’t started yet, and we are going to have to get on it,” Westmoreland said.

Hudson suggested the board start next year’s budget prep soon after the FY2014 document passes. 

Finding other revenue sources is a must for future progression, according to the finance director. 

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