Raises for county workers in question

They could get less than the 3.5% merit pay raise that a panel recommends.
Sunday, November 14, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 5:34 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008

Expectations of a tight 2005 budget may lead Boone County government employees to receive a smaller raise than the increase recommended by the Personnel Action Committee.

The committee, a group of county officials who meet to make salary suggestions to the Boone County Commission, recommended a 3.5 percent merit increase. A study by Public Sector Personnel Consultants recommended a 2.7 percent increase.

Southern District Commissioner Karen Miller and Presiding Commissioner Keith Schnarre said there probably isn’t room in the budget for an increase that big because of higher demands for county services and the rising cost of providing those services.

“There are not new revenues to go with ongoing expenses,” Miller said, adding that expenses are increasing because of inflation.

Schnarre, who attributes the squeeze to greater demand for court and jail services and an increased cost of technology, association memberships and photocopying, said he expects tighter budgets from 2005 onward.

“This isn’t a one-year thing,” Schnarre said. “They’re getting tighter.”

The 2004 budget projected $41.7 million in expenditures and $37.5 million in revenue.

County Auditor June Pitchford, who is responsible for presenting the 2005 budget to the commission, said Thursday that she did not yet have an estimate for this year’s budget because of continuing uncertainty about how employees will be compensated.

Miller said the county had about $300,000 in the budget for increased compensation, which would result in raises of between 1.5 and 2 percent.

Northern District Commissioner Skip Elkin said he couldn’t be sure of how large a raise to recommend until he has a clearer picture of the rest of the budget.

“I’m going to try to get our employees as much as we can,” Elkin said.

Schnarre would not specify how much of a raise he would recommend but indicated that he thought 3.5 percent was too much for this year’s budget.

Though he said that because of a big reserve the county is not in financial trouble, he has urged some cutbacks to secure future finances.

“It’s just a lot easier to slow down and cut down now to help things in the future,” Schnarre said.

He would like to reverse a two-year trend of budgets that dip into the reserve by holding salary increases to a “reasonable level” and cutting back on membership fees and contributions, such as the $20,000 the county gives annually to the Show Me State Games.

“We just need to live within our revenue. Period,” Schnarre said.

Missourian reporter Pate McMichael contributed to this report.

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