Madison County Commission Approves 5% Employee Pay Increase
MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) – For the past two years, Madison County’s budget has remained flat. Wednesday, following multiple meetings, hearings and a work session the commission approved a record-high balanced budget of more than $153 million.
It includes a five percent cost-of-living pay raise for all full-time county employees. County employees have not received a pay raise in more than 4 years and face out-of-pocket health care expenses that have recently increased.
“I’ve said before and I’ll say again I don’t see how our lower end employees get by on what their making,” voiced District 1 Commissioner Roger Jones. “I hate that our insurance coverage is not as good as it used to be but I’m convinced it’s as good as we can make it.”
Jones has been through 13 consecutive budget dealings and says he whole-heartedly supports the most recent one due to the salary increase coming to county employees.
The adjustment comes in part from savings in jail operation costs due to reduction of inmates.
The raise also addresses the long overdue issue of underpaid deputies and corrections officers who both stand to see a nearly $2,000 a year salary increase.
Salaries for beginning sworn A-post deputies will increase from $26,020 to $28,321. Salaries for certified detention officers will increase from $24,752 to $26,489.60.
The raises include the 5% pay increase and an additional $1000 and $500 for deputies and corrections officers respectively from saving in jail operations.
Freshman and more seasoned commissioners all agree the process was open and filled with productive conversation and input.
“I’ve been very pleased with the fact we have a lot of information given to us about it and a lot of opportunity to have input with individual conversations and work sessions so I’m very pleased with how the budget came out,” said Phil Riddick, Commissioner for Madison County District Five of his third budget experience.
The commission worked with the Madison County District Attorney’s Office and judges to reduce jail population from 1,100 inmates to 950 inmates with a savings of $40 per day per inmate.
“We were able to make these investments in our employees by eliminating unnecessary positions, capping our health care costs and by reducing expenses across several line items such as legal costs, utility bills, property and insurance,” explains Commission Chairman Dale Strong.
The commission is also proposing a hiring freeze for the next year to evaluate each position that becomes vacant through retirement or attrition.
“We are having to make those hard decisions and that’s why we’re here,” says Strong. “Madison County currently has about 1,300 employees and in some departments we are understaffed, some are over-staffed.”
Instead of filling positions that may be vacated by February, Strong proposes cross-training and consolidating responsibilities and duties for some positions.
“The downsizing of government is something that is long overdue and I think this commission understands what we’ve got to do.”
In Wednesday’s meeting when asked what positions Strong was speaking of specifically, Stong said “if we are talking about name and character here we will have to enter into executive session.”
Commissioner Bob Harrison replied, “I’m not speaking of name and character but if these unilateral decisions are made I think every commissioner needs to be a part of the conversation.”
Strong said, for instance, when the commission office moves from its antiquated phone, records and finance system, several positions will become obsolete; namely that of the switchboard operator, Strong said.
The Madison County Fiscal Year 2013-2014 budget also allows for 1,000 new water meters for the county. This is intended to reduce the estimated 30 to 33% water loss at meter sites. A portion of funds will also be used to install new water lines and fire hydrants in hopes of reducing fire insurance rates.