PE Board To Weigh Bonuses

Published 4:30 pm Thursday, December 23, 2010

PRINCE EDWARD – Whether County employees can look forward to bonuses similar to those awarded in other localities is still to be determined, but supervisors agreed to hold a public hearing on an ordinance that would make it possible.

“Let's have the public hearing in January and discuss it and then we can figure it out from there,” advised Lockett District Supervisor Robert “Bobby” Jones at the board's December 14 meeting.

County workers have not had an increase in pay for three years and the possible bonuses are much less than state approved bonuses for its workers. If Prince Edward were to equal what the state is chipping in for County workers, according to County Administrator Wade Bartlett, it would be over $100,000.

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What supervisors could possibly consider, after the public hearing, (the discussion was somewhat in flux) is a bonus of $500 for all full-time workers and $250 for part-time employees working more than 10 hours and $125 for those working less than ten hours. And, while a proposal has not been finalized, it was also suggested employees must be beyond the initial six months on the job to be eligible.

A first step, however, is the public hearing-the only thing the board has agreed to at this point.

A public hearing, the board was advised, must be held for the board to take action on bonuses. According to State Code: “Notwithstanding any contrary provision of law, general or special, the governing body of any locality may provide for payment of monetary bonuses to its officers and employees. The payment of a bonus shall be authorized by ordinance.”

The board's personnel committee met December 13 and unanimously recommended that the board authorize the hearing for January 11. Leigh District Supervisor Don Gantt pressed that the anticipated cost be included in the advertisement. That was estimated to be about $52,000, but could be less based on criteria.

Cumberland supervisors approved two percent bonuses earlier this month and the Town also approved a plan that gives workers $50 for a year's service and increases to a maximum-based on years of service-of $500.

Jones, who made the motion to hold the hearing, said he was not sure how he felt about bonuses, but noted that they have to take that step before they can do anything.

“I don't know what kind of pressure this is (going to) put on the school board,” Gantt also commented. “I know they got budget problems next year. We're borrowing money…”

It was estimated to be $190,000-$200,000 for the schools if they followed suit.

There is some uncertainty, however, with school funding next year and funding cuts. Solid funding numbers aren't likely to be known until the General Assembly finishes its work early next year.

Bartlett cited that there may be funding that they could use from some of the state and federal dollars that they have, but added that “they wanted to save that for next year because of those cuts.”

Gantt said, “I'm not saying they don't deserve the bonus. I'd love it if times were good, but we know they're not and we know that the economy's still a potential train wreck. We know the responsibility that we've got next year and we know we borrowed money this year. Potentially we'll borrow money again next year.”

It has been a similar length of time since school workers received a pay increase, it was also cited.

Raises-often linked to General Assembly funding-may have varied in localities in the past. There have been times where the state provided different pay raises for different categories of people including teachers (though there have been no raises since Bartlett arrived).

“And it's my understanding that that did occur in Prince Edward County also,” Bartlett later told The Herald.

Bartlett told the board that revenues are running “pretty steady right along with what are in our current budget.”

Gantt would offer that he's not “against doing this if you've got the money. Personally, I feel like it would be more prudent to wait until February or March to try to do it.”

Vice Chairman Howard Simpson, who chairs the personnel committee, said in the discussion that they had received a check last month from the clerk's office for over $57,000 for unpaid property tax and things that came in not in the budget.

Still Gantt questioned how much the County borrowed.

“If you're borrowing money, it makes bad sense to do this with borrowed money,” he said.

Holiday Schedule

Supervisors, following some discussion, approved the recommendation of the personnel committee for the 2011 holiday schedule. The schedule includes the same number of days as the current year.

Supervisor Gantt, however, cited that they're looking at 16 days off, plus any vacation time and sick time. Potentially, someone could take off 42 days in a year, he cited as an example. Minus sick leave (where they have to have a doctor's visit to be off part of those days, Simpson cited), it was 30 days.

“Forty-two days is a ridiculous amount of time that somebody can take off. And if you want to knock off 12, 30 days is ridiculous. And then to turn around and look at these bonuses, it gets past ridiculous. I'm not saying they don't deserve a raise, but I see such a golden opportunity here for somebody to take advantage of a lot of situations,” Gantt said.

Simpson noted that since he has been on the board as far as he knows, they have not had an employee of the County to take advantage “of any of this as far as sick leave or vacation time…the County personnel policy call for them to have it, then they can take it. That's what it's there for, but nobody has abused the sick leave or any other time when the county needed them.”

Gantt, reflecting on the number of County employees (with constitutional offices) multiplied 30 days time 100 workers, cited there could be 3,000 days that could potentially be missed.

The board approved the holiday schedule, with Gantt casting the lone opposing vote.

Some Support

One speaker, Earl Wallace, offered his support for the bonuses for the sheriff's department in the public comment segment of the meeting.

“With economic times as they are, I think crime probably is going to increase,” Wallace told the board. “I'm not (a) prophet-I'm just a simple Baptist preacher-but we need to encourage them and I think this would be one giant step in encouraging them so I would encourage you to support it and encourage them.”

Farmville District (801) Supervisor Mattie Wiley assessed that the sheriff's department and all the departments within the County are doing a good job.