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Childs is only commissioner who wants to be Santa

Grady County commissioners are unanimous in the opinion that county workers do an outstanding job day-in-and-day-out, but when it comes to paying county employees a Christmas bonus the board is split.
County Administrator Rusty Moye recommended Tuesday that the board pay county employees their traditional Christmas bonus, based on years of service, out of $25,000 already budgeted, but unspent in the salary line item of the road department.
According to Moye, the money is available because of unfilled positions approved for the road department that were frozen by the commission.
“I move to deny and give the money back to the taxpayers. Let the taxpayers get a Christmas bonus,” Commissioner Bobby Burns said. Commissioner Charles Norton seconded Burns’ motion.
Chairman Al Ball confused by Burns’ motion asked for clarification and Burns said his comment about the taxpayers receiving a bonus was not to be taken literally.
“My reasoning is that the employees are already getting a three percent raise come January 1st and that will be paid by a good many people who are paying taxes that are not getting raises,” Burns said.
The veteran, retiring Dist. 5 commissioner said he was especially concerned for elderly taxpayers who had not received a cost of living increase in their Social Security benefits in the last two years.
“The bonuses may be deserving, but the government should not be giving bonuses. The county employees are paid a salary to do a job. We have no criteria for bonuses,” Burns stated.
He noted that in the private sector employees have to earn bonuses by producing and obtaining certain goals or objectives.
“I think they need to be eliminated all together. We talked about it last year. You mark my word, when the millage rate goes up in next few years you’re going to wish you had this money,” Burns predicted.
Commissioner Norton agreed with Burns and commented, “No question the county employees are doing a great job, but we have been blessed not to have to lay any one off or have any furloughs while others have, including in the private sector. I’m working in a place today that has half the staff it had two years ago.”
Norton said he supported the three percent cost-of-living raise, but he could not support the Christmas bonuses.
Vice Chairman Charles Renaud said paying a bonus only hid the real issue of below average wages being paid to county workers.
“Our pay scale is really something that needs to be addressed. I’m sorry I will not be here to fight that battle, but I have to agree with Mr. Burns that giving bonuses at this time is not the right indication,” Renaud said.
Chairman Ball agreed with the vice chairman that county employees on average are underpaid and something should be done to increase pay scales, but he too opposed paying a Christmas bonus.
Only Dist. 1 Commissioner Elwyn Childs spoke out in favor of paying the bonuses.
“I hear all sides to this, but the money is already in the salary category of the budget. The department heads have run a close budget to save this money and I don’t have a problem giving them a one-time bonus. They have reduced expenses to a point and are doing a good job. I appreciate them. If the money is there in the budget line item, I have no problem giving it to them, Childs said.
“Just because the money is there we don’t have to spend it,” Burns replied.
Commissioner Norton questioned Childs’ assertion that the money was in the salary line item of the budget and contended the money would come out of contingency.
Administrator Moye corrected Norton and explained the money was available in the salary line item of the road department’s budget because of the board’s previous decision to freeze four approved positions within the road department.
Following the discussion Chairman Ball called for a vote and all but Childs voted to deny Moye’s recommendation to pay the Christmas bonuses.
Commissioner Childs then offered a motion to pay the bonuses, but his motion died for lack of a second.
The last time county employees were paid a Christmas bonus was in 2008, according to Administrator Moye.

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