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Putnam Budget Committee To Consider New Pay Plan, Ask For Price Tag

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
Putnam Budget Committee To Consider New Pay Plan, Ask For Price Tag

The Putnam County Budget Committee voted Thursday night to consider a new employee pay plan which would top out salaries faster.

The idea: to improve retention and increase wages. The plan gets employees to their top pay by year ten for emergency services, 15 for all other county jobs. It also incorporates the marketplace adjustments suggested by the recently-completed wage study.

The committee asked department heads and elected officials to take the plan submitted by Commissioner Jonathan Williams and come up with a price tag. Commissioner Kim Bradford.

“I’d like to see the numbers on it myself,” Bradford said. “I think it’d be hard to vote to spend money when we don’t know what we’re spending, but I would like to see the numbers on it because I am interested in it. If this is what our emergency services feel like is going to help them retain the best trained people longest amount of time, I think we need to really seriously look at what the cost would be.”

Sheriff, EMS, and fire officials have all said during budget deliberations that they are struggling to recruit because the county’s wages are lower than other agencies in the early years of service. The county does better when comparing long-tenured employees.

The county system currently tops out employees between 20 and 30 years of service. Williams said this plan gets employees to the “top of the mountain” quicker, putting more money in their pockets for a longer period of job. Budget Committee Chair Ben Rodgers agreed, but said many employees did not see it that way when the county previously used a shorter time frame.

“They were very frustrated that they were not getting a raise,” Rodgers said. “My response was, ‘well, I thought this was supposed to help you all and that was what we discussed or what was discussed.’ And it’s all about not what you’ve done for me, but what are you doing for me now.”

Fire Chief Tom Brown said it’s about educating employees that they are long-term receiving more money even without the wages.

“If you take 20 years to top out or 25 years to top out, you’re only making the top pay for the last few year,” Williams said. “So over the course of a career, they’re going to make a lot more money with an earlier top out. If they’re missing job satisfaction because they feel like there’s not upward mobility, then you either promote, you change jobs, any number of things.”

The proposal will be the second time county leaders have examined the county pay structure in the last two weeks. County Mayor Randy Porter asked department heads to come up with a number to fully fund all the needed changes in the salary study. That number came in at some $2.8 million, with some $400,000 in additional benefit costs.

Commissioner Cathy Reels voted yes Thursday night, but wondered if the committee needed a more long-term approach.

“I think we’ve waited a little bit late to be pulling all this in now into budget,” Reels said. “Why shouldn’t we be working on this in a longer period of time instead of just a week? What do we got? Two weeks left for budget. Randy has proposed to move it up from $600 to $1,000 and from $1000 to $1,500. I think that’s a pretty good raise.”

Commissioner Chris Cassetty said whatever pay system the county uses leaves a bigger unanswered question.

“My question is simple how are we going to pay for it?” Cassetty said. “We’re twelve something million dollars in the hole. I’m not going to vote to increase anything by two or three or three and a half million dollars till I know how we’re going to pay for it. We can talk about pay scale all we want, but until we talk about taxes and what tax rate is going to be, as far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t matter.”

The committee will get a total cost estimate of the new pay plan next Thursday when it reconvenes.


The post Putnam Budget Committee To Consider New Pay Plan, Ask For Price Tag appeared first on News Talk 94.1/AM 1600.