Pulaski Justice of the Peace Phil Stowers sends a note about the Quorum Court meeting Tuesday at which JPs will consider another pay bonus for county employees, a bonus plan that also covers county elected officials.
Stowers is not inclined to favor the bonuses. He makes a sound case for a county headed toward another year of deficit spending with a jail inadequate for criminal demands. He notes: Within the last 12 months, county employees have received 8 percent in bonuses and a COLA, with another 5 percent bonus on the table. Also significant: a county employee's own health insurance is 100 percent covered by taxpayers, an inflation protection of significant value.
A 13 percent pay boost in 12 months, plus coverage of rises in health insurance costs, on the cusp of a recession with uncertain times ahead? Nuts. County Judge Buddy Villines, you have a veto pen, right, should this pass?
On the jump, a note he received from an employee of County Treasurer Debra Buckner and then Stowers' comment to me and then his response to the employee:
LETTER TO STOWERS
Dear Mr. Stowers:
On behalf of all Pulaski County Employees, I want to a minute to express our sincerest appreciation for the very difficult, but necessary decision that you have to make. Receiving the onetime cash last year made a positive impact on our holiday season, as well as improved morale overall. I feel confident that all QC members have a desire and feel a responsibility to improve the financial situation for all. I am personally grateful for your support and generosity. I also have a profound respect for the difficulty that this challenge has presented for this year.
That being said, I am troubled by one aspect of this situation. During the last committee meetings the motion was made to exclude all elected officials from receiving the onetime cash. While I understand the need find solutions to our fiscal problems, I would suggest caution against publicly disrespecting the offices of our elected officials. I am certain that most, if not all, could find positions in the private sector that are more financially gratifying and under less public scrutiny. This motion seems to single out and demonize a select few of our Pulaski County Employees; our leaders.
Again, I want to be sure that my gratitude for the consideration to vote for all employees to receive the 5% onetime cash is heard, as well as my appreciation for accomplishments made last year.
North Little Rock, AR
STOWERS' NOTE TO ME
Shannon works for Debra Buckner. Tuesday night's QC meeting should be fun. I cannot with good conscious vote to deficit spend on a bonus - PERIOD. In the past year we have given a 3% bonus in November of 2007, a 3% cola raise as of 1/1/2008, and another 2 % cola upon the employee anniversary date. Plus we have provided for them in 2008 a state of the art fitness center, and the health insurance premium for the employee is subsidized at 100%. In this world of tough economic times and rising unemployment I don't think this bonus will have much effect on retaining employees. I think they will stay because they already have it pretty good.
If you get a chance, call Buckner, Buddy, Troutman-Ward, O'Brien, and Doc and ask them if they feel they should be included in this bonus (if it even passes). Tuesday night is going to be interesting. As usual, the five executives will stack the room with county employees and it will be a 'mob' atmosphere. However, the consituents I am most accountable to are the aprox 25,000 people I represent in northwest Pulaski county. Not the 1,200 county employees.
STOWERS' RESPONSE TO EMPLOYEE
Good Morning Shannon:
Thank you for taking the time to send me your thoughts. Also, thank you for your service to the county. Historically, Pulaski County government has gotten into trouble by spending from reserves. Given the economic climate we are in, I cannot vote to spend $1.3 million out of our reserves on a pay bonus that does not incent the employee to stay with the county. What I would be more inclined to favor is a modest (2%) cost of living raise.
I respectfully disagree that voting to exclude elected officials (including myself) is 'disrepecting' them or 'demonizing' them as you stated in your email. Believe me, I could use the 5% right now. However, if I feel that I am unjustly compensated for being a Quorum Court member, I have the ability to choose to not run for reelection. That is the perogative of every elected official.
We face flattening revenues, increased M&O costs, and an infrastructure that is in dire need. In the past year we have approved a 3% bonus and a 5% cost of living increase. We have also paid for a state of art fitness center and the county pays 100% of the health premium for the employee. I would never discourage a county employee from bettering themselves if they found a more attractive position elsewhere in the public or private sector.