Pay raises put on hold



March 10, 2010 - 12:00 AM

Allen County employees won’t get raises until commissioners understand the county’s financial standing for this year and 2011.
“We need to be above board and honest,” Chairman Gary McIntosh told several department heads Tuesday morning. “We — at least from my perspective — are going to postpone consideration of raises until we know what’s going to happen financially.”
Department heads earlier this year sought commissioners’ approval to offer raises based on merit rather than across the board. Each department has enough in its budget to grant raises of about 2 percent overall. The county’s annual payroll is a touch above $5 million, meaning a 2 percent raise, no matter how distributed, would cost about $100,000.
“I think it would be the wrong message to send constituents to give raises right now with all that’s happening,” McIntosh countered, noting that ongoing declines in state revenue affect the county’s budget, as do local economic conditions.
Bill King, director of Public Works, sparred with commissioners on the issue, noting it was difficult to hire and keep employees when they could go elsewhere, including the city, for better wages. Some starting wages outside the county are “more than we pay someone who has been here 20 years,” King said.

ANGELA HENRY, director of SAFE BASE, asked commissioners for $7,000 to help secure a $70,000 grant from REACH Healthcare Foundation for dental screenings and other health-related programs for Allen County children.
SAFE BASE, the USD 257 after-school program Henry directs, has won $460,000 in grants from the REACH foundation the past five years to do dental screenings for USD 257, 256 and 258. To date 4,523 children have been examined, with 674 receiving follow-up treatment. Henry said in addition to grant money, $143,000 had been raised locally to help pay for dental work, health screenings and school supplies.
Commissioners asked Henry to give them a more detailed accounting of how county and grant money would be spent before they made a decision. Two years ago Allen County kicked in $12,500.

COMMISSIONERS will decide soon whether to pursue two federal stimulus fund grants. One, for $139,000, could be used for a public purpose; the other, of $209,000, could be used to nurture a private enterprise.
The money currently is under the thumb of the Kansas Department of Commerce; either grant comes with federal regulations, including requirements that any contractor involved meet federal wage guidelines.
County Counselor Alan Weber encouraged commissioners to decide soon whether to pursue the funds, or let another municipality try. Weber said leaving the grants in abeyance would lead to the money being returned to Washington.
Commissioners indicated they had little interest in pursing the grants but want to give county residents a week or two to weigh in.

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