by Max Brantley
The Pulaski County Quorum Court last night adopted what the Democrat-Gazette termed "one-time cost of living increases" up to 5 percent for county employees.
Question: Does that cover Quorum Court members, too, the people who voted the bonus? It typically does. I hope to hear from a JP shortly on that. I'm also a little confused from varying language in the article of whether this is a bonus or a raise built into the salary schedule, but it sounds like a lump sum bonus.
UPDATE: There was a motion to exclude elected officials from the pay enhancement. That motion failed, as ever.
The so-called Conservative Caucus on the court said it right, but voted wrong. This pay plan, with more money paid on longevity, generally meant the biggest bonuses, 5 percent, will go to the highest paid employees who've worked at least five years and smaller bonuses for the people who need them most, 2 percent for those with two years' employment. (For example, restaurant raiding treasurer Buckner gets more than $3,000; a $10-an-hour janitor with two year's experience gets about $400.) New hires (last four months) get nada. Merry Christmas from the County Clubhouse.
I won't repeat my rant of last year about the county's ability to pay bonus or salary increases of 5 percent or more a year for the fourth consecutive year while city and state employees — not too mention the disproportionately unemployed private workforce — have experienced nothing of the sort. Pulaski County employees got a 5 percent raise last year; a 4 percent raise AND a 4 percent bonus the year before that, and a 5 percent raise the year before that. JP moaning last night about hard times was, in short, a little out of date.
JP Phil Stowers, who raised questions about employees on the bottom end of the scale, adds a point worth considering:
Close to 70% of our budget is committed to the sherriff's office where we start a deputy at $29k and the City of LR starts their officers at $36k - and the disparity grows from their with years of service and rank promotion.
The Sherriff's office has 30% turnover a year. We spend a tremendous amount of resources (dollars) in training and equipping only to see a good portion of those individuals leave after a year or two and go to another law enforcement agency where they can provide better for their family.
That disparity has to be ultimately addressed at some point. With the County building a new 240-bed addition to the jail that will require jailers to staff it and Little Rock set to hire around 70 (I believe that number is right) new police officers, it makes it very difficult to recruit and retain a quality stable workforce.