The Maury County government will draft its upcoming budget prioritizing a 5% pay raise for all county employees.
During a roundtable discussion on the upcoming budget-writing process, the county’s budget committee tasked the county’s finance department with drafting a budget that would include the proposed pay raises.
The proposed raise will increase the county’s annual operation costs by $1.2 million.
The committee also passed a stipulation that the county-wide increase would not include any increases in compensation for the county’s department leaders.
Each additional increase, including new positions, will be reviewed by the commission starting in April.
The proposed raise would be the first since the arrival of the COVID-19 virus in Middle Tennessee, which led the local government to implement a lean budget for 2020-21.
The county's conservative spending plan postponed all raises for county employees for the current budget cycle.
Increases to help keep the county competitive
“Before we start taking on added cost, I would really like to see us take care of the employees that we have now,” said Dana Gibson, the county’s human resources director during the roundtable discussion held this week.
The County Technical Assistance Service reports employees at local county governments across the state have seen an average increase in pay of 27% in the past 8 years.
“Raises are important and a simple raise can really boost morale,” Gibson said. “Our employee morale has really been low here lately. It not only increases employee satisfaction but encourages them to work hard throughout the rest of the year.”
In the three years prior to 2020, the county’s employees saw an 11% increase in compensation: a 4% increase for 2016-17, a 4% increase in 2017-18 and a 3% increase in 18-19.
Gibson has continually pushed for increases for employees pay in an effort for the county to remain competitive with other local and regional employers.
She previously warned the county’s elected officials of increased employee turnover and the government’s inability to compete with the private sector.
“That will get us to be competitive with the counties that we need to be competitive with,” said Scott Sumner’s, the chair of the budget committee. “Being conservative has really helped us during this time of COVID. I want to make sure we are doing it conservatively, but making a difference as well.”
The commission will also consider a $30,000 study to analyze the county's salary scale for employees.
"That will help us try to get to where we need get, competitively, throughout the county," Sumners said.
Surplus available to fund increases
Maury County Director of Finance Doug Lukonen said the proposed increase would be within the local government's means.
In the 2019-20 fiscal year, Maury County created a surplus of $3.2 million last year and the current fiscal year is expected to generate an estimated surplus of $4.2 million.
“We have the funds,” Lukonen told the commissioners. “We are in a much better position than we expected to be due to how conservative we were with COVID-19.
“Things have really turned around. We have remained static on our budget. We have exceeded what we made in the previous year on every schedule except for some of the court fees. The sales tax, business tax and property tax have remained strong.”
Commissioners voice approval of plan
Members of the commission voiced a consensus for the plan, as the budget committee moved forward with the recommendation.
“A 5% raise is not unreasonable based on these last five years — in my opinion,” said Commissioner Tommy Wolaver, who represents the greater Mt. Pleasant area.
“I believe I can support this.”
Commissioner Gynne Evans, who represents the grater Spring Hill area agreed.
“We have not had this opportunity before when we actually felt comfortable,” Evans said. “We feel like we have the money to do it. I think that is what we need to do.”
This article originally appeared on The Daily Herald: Maury County considers 5% raise for county employees