Second District Commissioner Mike Schatz

County commissioners are continuing to work out issues over next year’s employee pay raises.

The county must still decide how the raises will be applied to highway department union members.

There is also a question as to how the merit raises will be divided. In some cases merit raises may be reserved for those employees who have been on the job longer but make the same amount of money as a new hire in a similar job role.

This could be a start to getting the county’s pay scale back in order since raises have not been given in five years, Second District Commissioner Mike Schatz said.

There could be cases in which newer hires still get a merit raise but not as much as a longer-serving employee.

If a certain county department does not have any problems with longer-serving employees making the same as new hires, then all of the workers could get the same amount of merit raise, Schatz said.

Schatz said he does not think it is right for longer-serving employees to make the same as new workers in similar job roles. The county should reward dedication and loyalty with more pay, he said.

The raises, which could total $450,000, will be broken into two parts: the merit raise and a 1.5 percent cost-of-living raise.

All the employees, including the union workers, will get the 1.5 percent cost-of-living increase.

But there is still a question as to whether the highway department union members will be eligible for the merit increases.

First District Commissioner Tim Brinker said the county should know an answer to that question once a new contract is worked out with the highway department union.

Schatz said the county is nearing a new contract with the union and that there are very few issues left to discuss other than how to apply the pay increases.

As for the other county employees, elected officials will decide which of their workers get merit raises.

Department heads, who work under the county commission, will make recommendations for merit raises, but the county commission has the final decision in those cases, Schatz said.

However, unless something is really out of the ordinary, he said he expects the commission will basically approve what the department heads recommend.

Elected officials, including the county commission, will only get the cost-of-living increases.

Brinker said some workers are grateful that the commissioners kept their word about giving raises. Officials are only as good as their word in county government, Brinker added.

Schatz concurred that there has been a positive response from some of the employees. He noted that there are employees in other workplaces who are still not getting raises, and in other cases people are still having trouble finding work since the recession.

The raises are still only proposed at this point because the 2014 budget must still be approved.

That should happen on Dec. 17 after a public hearing which will be held at 9 a.m. in the commission chambers of the government center in Union.