Cities on both sides of the river are scrapping projects, leaving vital jobs unfilled and planning layoffs. Times are tough.
Not at the Pulaski County Courthouse. On the Quorum Court agenda next week (actually the Ways and Means Committee) is a 4 percent pay bonus for county employees, including the justices of the peace who will vote on the measure.
This item is right after an item on the overstuffed county jail where minor criminals can't even pass book-in and right before an expenditure for more security at the county administration building where somebody filched thousands of dollars of cash stuffed in a desk overnight.)
This little bonus will cost taxpayers more than $1 million smackers.
You may remember a county pay topic from not so long ago. It was only eight months ago that I recounted the 3 percent bonus and 5 percent raise given to county employees in 2008. This was on the occasion of Quorum Court considering yet another 3 percent bonus for themselves and other county employees in February. (This oine was voted down.) Add all this to the coming 4 percent bonus and, not counting compounding, you have a 12 percent pay enhancement in a bit more than a year.
Your pay has jumped 12 percent in the last year, hasn't it? What? You don't have a job? Sorry about that.
The county engaged in deficit spending for years, aided by criminal mishandling of the budget by a loathesome lothario who canoodled with a county vendor while burning up taxpayer cash. The county's mismanagement devastated the jail and we all paid the price in more crime. Voters get it. The county government is a poster child for tax defeats in election after election.
The county, among other things you should remember, says it doesn't have the money to do land use planning in western Pulaski County. Better for Quorum Court members to give themselves a raise and let developers run roughshod over the Lake Maumelle watershed. It's long complained about lack of money to pay jailers to open more jail beds. if $1 million is free per year, that would hire, what, 20 jailers?
Stipulated: There are many wonderful county employees who do great work. But has there been an exodus of county employees to jobs with better pay, holidays and insurance benefits than the county offers? Is a 7 percent pay "bonus" in a year of nearly unprecedented hard times and declining tax revenues a good idea?
UPDATE: Shazam. I've just been informed that the Budget Committee of the Quorum Court will also be considering give themselves and other county employees a 3 to 5 percent pay raise for the year beginning 2010. That could push the pay increase in less than two years up to 17 percent for the people voting on them and other county employees. The unemployed and struggling of America salute the Quorum Court's devotion to keeping their houses functioning comfortably.
Perhaps you could justify a so-called "cost of living raise" next year for county employees, though even 3 percent would be much higher than that recently given state employees. But on top of a year-end 4 percent bonus? Shameless. Shameless.
PS -- Just so you'll know. The JPs and county employees enjoy free -- FREE -- health insurance. They must pay for dependents, but their own coverage is FREE. Call it a government option insurance plan.
CORRECTION: I erroneously failed originally to note that a February bonus proposal wasn't approved. I have adjusted cumulative amounts on pay bonus and increase action to reflect that.