Salaries top budget discussions

WINNSBORO – Fairfield County leaders warned that it would be a lean budget, and council members illustrated that during a series of votes Monday night.

In all, council members considered 18 amendments to the proposed $46,757,741 budget, which also received second reading. The budget requires three readings to take effect.

Salary and personnel requests highlighted Monday night’s discussions, with council members approving an amendment that gives higher raises to lower paid employees while also decreasing raises for higher paid workers.

Council members previously discussed a tiered system so all employees received raises originally budgeted at $350,919.

On Monday night, however, the council voted for a more aggressive plan benefiting lower wage earners. Everyone still receives a raise, though employees making $30,000 or less receive the highest raises at 6 percent.

From there, raises progressively decrease as salary grades rise, bottoming out at 1 percent for employees earning $50,000 or more, according to budget documents.

Devoting more money for lower earners trimmed $190,298 from the proposed salary budget, down from $350,919 to $160,621.

The amendment passed 4-2, with council members Jimmy Ray Douglas and Douglas Pauley opposing. Both preferred only giving raises to lower wage earners.

“I’m definitely not for the tier thing because it’s too much money,” Pauley said.

Offering 6 percent raises to low wage earners only would’ve trimmed $280,744 from the budget, giving 47 employees a raise, according to budget documents.

“Do we have to give a raise every year?” Douglas asked. “If we are looking to save money, why are we looking at giving a raise when we might not have enough for the budget?”

“Giving raises to only low-wage earners creates a situation where they could make more money than their supervisors.

Brad Caulder, Human Resources Director

Brad Caulder, the county’s human resources director, said giving raises to only low wage earners potentially creates a situation where they wind up making more money than their supervisors.

“We really want to keep people separated out to a degree,” he said.

Councilman Moses Bell thought the salary tier was the fairest option, saying it “gives everyone a raise.”

Efforts to increase recycling attendant pay failed, however.

The initial amendment called for a 30 cent per hour increase for attendants. Bell pushed for the measure, but other council members opposed, saying they disagreed with singling out one set of employees.

“I do believe they deserve an increase, but what precedent are we setting by singling out a temporary employee?” asked Council Chairman Neil Robinson.

Bell responded by amending his motion to give all temporary employees a 30-cent raise, but it failed when it wasn’t seconded.

Then Bell introduced another amendment increasing recycling attendant hourly pay by 50 cents, but that also failed to receive a second.

The council did approve requests to create full time positions in the county auditor and assessor offices, costing $39,748 and $35,401, respectively. Council members did not approve elevating a detention center kitchen supervisor from temporary to full time, that would have added an additional $18,683 to the budget.

In other budget matters, the budget initially included three new vehicles for the Fairfield County Sheriff’s Office which had requested an additional six vehicles for a total of nine. The additional six vehicles would have added $326,977 to the budget.

The per vehicle cost is $46,711, with the average vehicle costing $33,711 and an additional $13,000 per vehicle for equipment, budget documents show.

Bell tried unsuccessfully to fund more vehicles, but a pair of motions by Bell to add three vehicles – and then two vehicles – failed due to lack of seconds. A third motion that would jaave added one vehicle for a total of four failed in a 2-4 vote.

After the vote for additional vehicles failed, Sheriff Will Montgomery requested additional office space for deputies in the Mt. Zion building, saying he would not have enough vehicles for his deputies who would be on the road. Council members said they would consider it.

Nonprofits generally struck out.

While council members did approve an additional $4,000 for the Chameleon Inspirations Learning Center, a motion to award $26,500 to Fairfield Behavioral Health Services failed 2-3 with council members Clarence Gilbert and Bell voting for and Pauley recusing himself.

The Food Bank of Lower Fairfield County withdrew a request for $6,000.

Bell also struck out after making several attempts to secure $400,000 for a Ridgeway community center, a pet project of his.

Third reading of the budget will be held via the live You Tube feed on Tuesday, May 26. (Monday, May 25 is Memorial Day.)

(Publisher’s Note: the dollar amounts for the requested Sheriff’s Office vehicles in the print edition are inaccurate and have been corrected in this post. Also, council did not pass the vote to elevate a part time kitchen employee in the detention center to a full time position as was stated in the print edition. That, too, is corrected in this post.)