COLUMBIA — The Boone County Fire Protection District's board authorized a $1,000 cost-of-living raise for its paid staff in mid-January, though there was no agreement among board members about whether the cost of living had actually risen.
The raise was passed by a 3-1 vote. Board members John Gordon, Dave Griggs and John Sam Williamson voted for it, and Shelly Dometrorch voted against it. The fifth board member, Phyllis Fugit, was absent at the time of the vote. The raise was effective immediately, as of the Jan. 14 meeting.
The decision began as a discussion about how to create a meritorious raise system. Fire Chief Scott Olsen presented a four-component system that included cost of living, “goal achievement,” how long they've worked and true merit increases.
But the board could not agree on how best to implement the system. Williamson suggested that the Fire District's 18 paid staff receive $1,000 cost-of-living raises.
"We put a few numbers forward — some higher, some lower — before we decided on the $1,000," Griggs said.
Griggs cited the Consumer Price Index, which showed a 0.9 percent inflation in Midwest cities through November of 2009.
But Dometrorch said she voted against the raise because the index, which is used to determine the change in cost of living, didn't show an increase in Missouri.
"I couldn't justify, in these times, to my constituents, giving them a raise that wasn't defined," Dometrorch said. "My vote doesn't reflect that I think (the staff) did a bad job this past year, though."
Gordon said he doesn’t consider the raise a true cost-of-living raise but also for merit. “In my eyes, it’s a way to give people something for the work they’ve done in 2009, since we couldn’t figure out a process for meritorious raises,” he said.
“I think that some sort of reward for the phenomenal work of the fire district officials was needed,” Griggs said.
Olsen said that the merit system was still a “work in progress,” and that he expected to have a meeting on the subject within the next 30 days.