Boyle budget discussion sets up salaries as future topic for debate

Published 8:35 am Sunday, May 26, 2019

On Friday, after the Boyle County Fiscal Court went through the last bit of changes to the budget it made during workshops, magistrates were told to take heed of a depleting surplus by County Treasurer Mary Conley. She said the court needed to do some intense analyzing and forecasting this summer to figure out how to handle finances, especially when the county is considering building a new jail.

Conley had backed out a salary increase for the emergency management director, after she realized looking through her notes that the court had tabled the action in hopes of having another wage and salary study completed first.

“I’m not sure if I can do a salary research in the next three or four weeks,” she said. The second reading of the budget will be at the end of June.

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Magistrate Jason Cullen also asked about an additional raise of a quarter he wanted to get included for jail employees, and was reminded that the court decided to halt any further raises until it can review what all county employees make.

“But (the additional quarter raises) are embedded in the overall budget by the (Boyle-Mercer) Joint Jail Committee; they have not been removed,” Conley said.

Magistrate Phil Sammons said he feels every department should be taking a look at where they can make cuts. “Can I cut $100 out of this, $500 out of this. Every little bit adds up.”

“I want to go back to the appropriations paid … This is something we need to look at as well,” Cullen said, referring to the external agencies the county gives money to.

Sammons said, “Yes. Well, we need to cut all of them out.”

“You gave a raise to one individual on that,” Conley said. The court took Main Street Perryville’s funding to $44,215, from $39,215, to pay for Director Vicki Goode’s raise.

“But if we can’t afford to give our jail staff a little bit more, then why are we giving $10,000 to the Brass Band Festival?” Cullen asked. The Great American Brass Band Festival submitted its application late, but the court overlooked that because of the change in festival management.

“I don’t think you can itemize the jail only,” Conley said, cautioning Cullen. “… we have a whole host of departments.“

“We can watch that video again,” Cullen said. Jailer Brian Wofford showed a video to the court last week, as he did for the Joint Jail Committee, of an MMA fighter who was hopped up on methamphetamine and Molly and tried to take on nine deputies when he was brought in. Wofford shared the video to demonstrate why the jail needs to be staffed well.

Conley further cautioned Cullen. “There are other people in very important positions, all through this county … It’s important you look at everybody as a whole, as a magistrate.”

Cullen said he does. “But I know where — I’m going to say, the low-hanging fruit is, and people that we need to really take care of. People who are keeping us out of harm’s way, really saving this county from a severe lawsuit.”

Conley said she didn’t dispute that, and Magistrate John Caywood said he didn’t either.

“However, every department faces liability,” and each has specific challenges to deal with, Caywood said.

Magistrate Jamey Gay said the court needs salary survey information that’s a “living, breathing document. It’s got to be evergreen.”

The county did a wage and salary study a little over three years ago, Conley said, which was used to make adjustments on some salaries. She said, “HR directors across the state talk about how people spend $10,000 on these surveys and then leadership doesn’t adhere to them …”

Cullen said the jail has “talked for several years about increasing their salaries, and that wasn’t done, so …”

“It was done,” Conely said.

“Some of it was done. But Jack, you had to fight just to get 50 cents,” Cullen said, motioning over to former Magistrate Jack Hendricks, who was in the crowd.

“We got a dollar,” Conley said, in reference to the jail raises. Cullen said it just seemed like nothing happened until Hendricks got involved, and mentioned how hard the former magistrate fought for the raises.

“We made some adjustments two and three years ago,” Conely said. “I’d be happy to give you the history.”

Cullen said as an employer — he owns the Hub Coffee House and Cafe’s two locations — he struggles every day to find employees. “And my employees don’t have that hard of a job. To find employees who have to put up with what (jail employees) have to put up with and then pay them …”

“I’m not disputing that,” Conley said. “We just had some administrative positions that came through … we had three applications to pick from. These are people who are … working with money and finances. It may be looked at differently, but I just think we have to caution ourselves. It’s hard to find good employees in today’s market, period.”

Hendricks asked if he could interject. “You can’t look at every position when you have one that’s sitting here and way below the market. That’s why we started with the jail. We had people in one of the most difficult jobs making $4-$5 less than people who sit around in this air conditioned building and do paperwork. You’ve got to look at that.”

He said the court did “look at every entity” after doing the study. “But you’ve got to start with the ones that need it the most and have the most difficult job. I don’t know how they ever got people at $9 and $10 an hour (at the jail),” Hendricks said.

Gay said he felt like they were all saying the same thing. “It’s about the market rate, and that’s what the survey tells you,” he said, and re-emphasized the goal of getting every employee to the 75th percentile — meaning they would earn as much or more than 75% of comparable positions.

Conley said after the recent adjustments, she believes detention center employees have met that level with the raises. “I think we’re there,” she said.

“Every county is different. Every county’s got different monies coming in, so basically got to work with what you’ve got coming in,” Magistrate Ronnie Short said. “Any time you work with the public, I don’t care what you get paid, you’ve got a job. But you can’t please everybody.”

“I appreciate the dialogue,” Judge-Executive Howard Hunt said. “… But we’re off subject. It’s been agreed upon that we’re going to discuss this very subject at a later date.”

Magistrate Caywood said he wanted to add one small thing. “We spent a lot of time talking about the expense side and we spent no time talking about the revenue side. And I’ll shut up.”