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Hartselle Enquirer

Morgan budget proposes employee pay hikes

By Michael Wetzel

For the Enquirer

Morgan County employees will receive a significant pay raise if the County Commission approves a proposed general fund budget of $26.88 million for fiscal year 2022.

Ray Long, commission chairman, told the commissioners the county must increase pay to help lure and retain quality workers. His proposal presented at the commission meeting Aug. 10 has all employees and officials receiving a 2 percent cost-of-living pay hike on top of a one-grade increase in most departments.

He also proposes part-time worker pay go from $9.88 an hour to $11 an hour.

“Most of the pay grade increases will be between $1.30 and $1.40 an hour,” he said.

Long said about $550,000 of reserve funds will be used to balance the budget.

“The reserve fund has grown in the past year because of CARES Act reimbursement. Our department heads can reward their workers,” he said. “They have endured a lot and worked hard during this pandemic. A pat on the back is nice, but a dollar in the pocket is even better.”

He said the county has been conservative with its money and has built a $7 million reserve fund despite losing a lawsuit over online sales taxes to the county’s three public school systems and about $300,000 in Tennessee Valley Authority in-lieu-of-tax funds last year.

He said the county will lose about $1.5 million annually in online sales taxes because of the lawsuit, with half of that coming from the sheriff’s office.

“We’re not going to cry over spilled milk. That money is going to stay in Morgan County,” he said. “Our property tax revenue is about 4 percent higher than it was last year because of all of the growth and construction we are seeing in the county. Our recording fee revenue is up because of the housing construction.”

District 2 Commissioner Randy Vest said the county’s revenue stream is stronger with additional ad valorem and fuel taxes coming in.

“The salary increase will allow us to help fill and retain positions,” Vest said. “If we’re not competitive in pay, we’ll lose workers. If you’re underpaid, you will look elsewhere for jobs.”

Morgan County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Mike Swafford said the proposed pay increase would go a long way toward attracting adequate personnel to the MCSO.

“Recruiting and hiring has been a challenge during this pandemic,” he said. “We’re 20 corrections officers, six deputies and three school resource officers down. Our call volume is up. County population is up. The complexity of crime is up during COVID. Domestic cases are more involved now.”

He said the sheriff might ask for additional deputies at budget hearings later this month.

Long said his proposed general fund budget expenditures are $26.85 million, or about $28,000 under projected revenue.

He said the total proposed budget, including road and bridge and capital improvement funds, is $55.05 million, with expenses estimated at $54.1 million. He said that will leave $950,059 unbudgeted.

“This is the first time road and bridge funds will not be used to pay anything in the general fund,” Long added.

The commissioners voted 3-0 to keep the employees’ insurance premium the same. “We haven’t increased their insurance for at least 13 years,” Long said.

In other new business, the commission approved:

  • Sheriff Ron Puckett’s request to eliminate five corrections officer positions and create and fill an administrative clerk one and four records clerk positions, with pay ranging from $13.42 to $17.52 an hour.
  • A quote from American Detention to purchase replacement glass and polycarbonate for repairs in the Morgan County Jail, in the amount of $39,388.40.
  • The donation of Bobby Brewer Field in Falkville, adjacent to South Park, from the Town of Falkville.
  • Rescheduling the next commission meeting from Aug. 24 to Aug. 31 at 9 a.m.

 

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