“Tonight, we’re going to be able to right some things,” said commissioner David Barlow. “I believe that this is something that is overdue that we need to do.”
Those comments by Barlow at Thursday night’s Board of Commissioners meeting summed up the feelings of many in favor of a two-percent cost of living increase for all county employees as Fayette continues its rebound from strict belt-tightening during the recession.
“I believe that we are in a position to bless our citizens by giving our employees encouragement,” added Barlow.
Commissioner Charles Rousseau added that the raise is indicative of the importance of rewarding quality workers.
“It is critically important, as we move into the future, that we look at how do we attract future talent and how do we retain the talent that we do have,” said Rousseau, adding that, while it is important to be prepared for potential expenditures on infrastructure and other items, you cannot forget the people. “We’re talking about issues of bricks and mortar and supplies and equipment, but you can’t leave out our people in that equation.
“It’s not pandering to our employees, we’re talking about attracting and maintaining quality people to give services to our citizens.”
Commissioners Steve Brown and Randy Ognio did not support the raise, citing a recent increase and bonus as sufficient while the county plans for the future.
“I know we have an excellent staff and they do a great job,” said Ognio, cautioning, “You’re putting a bigger burden on the citizens.”
Brown pointed to social security problems as a cautionary sign. “Rising payouts cut into pensions. State and local jurisdictions are not prepared for what is to come,” he said. “You have to look well beyond the future when you put these things together.”
County Administrator Steve Rapson assured that the raises would not put an undue strain on the budget, noting that over half a million dollars will still be added to the fund balance with a balanced budget.
“We have the best staff, I don’t know how else to say. I don’t think we brag on them enough,” said Rapson. “We don’t do a good job of hitting pause and looking at where we’ve been. I don’t think a two-percent (raise) is appreciating them as much as they need to be.”
The two-percent cost of living increase passed with a 3-2 vote, Brown and Ognio voting in opposition.