No extra green for county workers this Christmas

The Grady County Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday to turn down Administrator Rusty Moye’s request to pay county employees their traditional Christmas bonus.
The commission was split over the issue with Commissioners Elwyn Childs and Charles Renaud voting in favor of paying the bonuses and Chairman Bobby Burns, Vice Chairman Al Ball and Commissioner Charles Norton voting against.
The total cost of the bonuses to the taxpayers would be $22,800. Bonuses have traditionally been paid based on the employee’s years of service.
Moye reported to the board that his projections show, barring any unexpected major expenditures, the county will be able to fund the 2009 operating budget without having to dip into cash reserves as previously predicted.
According to Moye, each department has managed its individual budget conservatively, as asked, and two departments operated all year with fewer full-time employees than budgeted for.
“If all goes as planned and estimated for the next 31 days and we have no major breakdowns and we receive revenue as scheduled (with a 20 percent reduction in Local Option Sales Taxes), it is projected we will finish the year without having to transfer funds from our reserve account to balance our spending as originally thought would be required at the first of the year,” Moye wrote in his memo to the board.
Vice Chairman Al Ball voiced his concern for the message it would send taxpayers should the county approve the bonuses considering the depressed economy.
“It does not appear to me to be an appropriate time to pay out bonuses when we’ve got people in this county who have been laid off and are on unemployment. For some of them, their unemployment may have run out. These same people are having to pay taxes to cover these bonuses.”
“We did not approve any raises in 2010 and to dip into reserves to pay Christmas bonuses does not seem like a good idea to me,” Chairman Burns stated. He added, “It would be nice to give them a bonus. I hate it, but it’s the times right now.”
Vice Chairman Ball admitted that county workers are already underpaid, and he commented on their hard work and dedication, but he said he could not support paying the bonuses this year.
“It is very difficult for me to say,” Ball commented.
Commissioner Renaud asked Moye if he had a cost estimate if the county paid bonuses only to hourly workers, rather than both hourly and salaried employees, but Moye had not calculated that figure.
“It wouldn’t make any difference to me,” Chairman Burns noted, and Commissioner Norton said, “It is all based on numbers of years of employment.”
The bonus structure is as follows: one year service –  $50; 2-5 years service – $100; 6-10 years service – $200; 11 years and greater $500. Elected officials and part-time county employees are not covered under the bonus plan and, according to County Clerk Carrie Kines, there are currently 110 full-time county employees who are eligible for a Christmas bonus.
Although the county employees will not be paid a bonus this year, they will receive an extra paid holiday to celebrate Christmas.
The board voted unanimously to close county offices a full day on Thursday, Dec. 24, 2009, which is Christmas Eve. County offices will reopen on Monday, Dec. 28.
Chairman Burns expressed his reservations about closing a full day and noted that last year the board only approved closing a half day on Christmas Eve.
“We are here to serve the public, but since we are not paying bonuses this year I can go along with closing the full day,” Chairman Burns said.

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