Franklin County Commission

After years of going without pay raises it looks as though Franklin County employees will get increases in next year’s budget.

Presiding County Commissioner John Griesheimer announced the raises at the Tuesday county commission meeting.

The raises will be divided into two parts: a 1.5 percent cost of living raise and a merit raise of up to 1.5 percent.

Therefore, some employees could get a total raise of 3 percent.

In total, the raises could cost the county about $450,000.

There are still some issues to work out with the merit raises, Griesheimer said, adding that the commissioners need to consult with their attorney, Mark Vincent.

Griesheimer noted that the highway department employees operate under a union contract so there could be some question as to how the merit raises would work with those employees.

For the most part, county elected officials and department heads will decide how the merit raises should be granted, Griesheimer said, adding that it could be based on performance, skills and how much they are currently paid compared to what they should be making.

Elected officials, including the county commissioners, would only get the 1.5 percent cost of living increase.

Griesheimer said he is elated that the county is able to give the employees some pay raise and that it is a culmination of everyone working together to make it happen.

Second District Commissioner Mike Schatz said he still does not think the pay increases bring the wages up high enough. This year’s raises are not going to make up for five years without an increase, Schatz said. But he said the good thing is that the county is headed in the right direction.

Throughout the year, the commission has said that its focus was on trying to find money for employee raises. First District County Commissioner Tim Brinker said he hopes the raises show that the commissioners mean what they say.

Pay issues in the county have reportedly caused morale problems with some employees. The last time the employees got an across-the-board raise was 2008. However, there was a $700 one-time bonus granted in 2011.

Some sheriff’s office deputies have reportedly left the county for better-paying jobs, but Griesheimer said he hopes the raises will ease employee concerns.

Another advantage of the raises this year is that they will not be offset by health insurance increases since those costs are not going up, Griesheimer said.

In other cases, The Missourian discovered this year that smaller counties were paying their employees more than Franklin County paid its workers.

Finally, some county employees were upset last year when select county workers were given raises while most others were left with no increases.

Even with the raises, there may still be workers who want to leave the county to work for other places, Schatz said.

He hopes the raises can start addressing pay discrepancies such as longtime sheriff’s office employees making the same as new hires.

With the poor shape of the economy coupled with the county’s debt, this is the best the county could do this year for the employees while also serving the interest of the taxpayers, Schatz said.

The county currently has $51.86 million in debt that will not be paid off until 2032.

Next year, the county will make principal and interest payments of about $2.5 million on the debt, according to County Auditor Tammy Vemmer.

The county’s debt is for the new county government center, judicial center, Pave the County program, old courthouse renovation and sheriff’s office heating and air-conditioning project.

The raises will be effective Jan. 1 and were made possible by looking for cost savings in all departments, Brinker added. For instance, he said there are cases in which fund balances did not need to exist since the county has an emergency fund. In those cases, redundancies were eliminated, he said.

“The county is in good financial shape today,” he said.

Schatz said some of the bigger budget cuts came from equipment costs. In some cases, he said, departments did not have to budget for new equipment because there is a county emergency fund in place to cover those costs should they arise.

Brinker noted that the budget is still just proposed. The commission is set to hold a public hearing on the budget Dec. 17 at 9 a.m. in the county commission chambers of the government center in Union. The new budget would take effect Jan. 1.