Happy New Year to everyone. I hope that your start to 2015 was a good one. I know that Milam County employees have been looking to the new year to see just how the raise passed by the Commissioners Court will be affecting their paycheck in the coming year.
A raise is always a good thing, right? Well maybe yes maybe no. I guess you could say that a raise is always a good thing because it means that you are moving up the pay scale. However, it does not necessarily mean that you will be putting more cash in the bank.
Historically Milam County has been an entity that gave across the board raises. While I was in office the Commissioners Court instituted a merit based raise system that allowed the department heads to reward employees based on performance rather that just occupying a chair. For whatever reason the current leadership rescinded that policy upon taking office in 2011.
Personally I have always been opposed to across the board raises. Common sense tells me that an across the board raise treats all employees equally. Those that are outstanding employees receive the same reward for their efforts as the employees that are simply filling a chair. That cannot do anything to help morale or encourage improvement in employee performance within the ranks.
Now back to the raise is always a good thing comment. All Milam County employees received a 2.75% raise. All elected officials, except the County Judge, also received the increase. Not sure why the Judge opted out of the raise except that it might be some sort of a symbolic move to help balance the budget. Personally I believe he deserved the increase too.
The current entry level salary for Milam County is 21,500 dollars per year. It is higher for some skilled positions. Top salary paid by Milam County goes to the District Court Reporter. She receives $62,400 per year. Salary differences is one thing that I believe makes the across the board raise a bad idea. The bigger the salary the bigger the raise. Not always the right thing to do.
On the low end of the scale the person making 21,500 gets an annual raise of $591.25 before taxes. With the county paying every two weeks that means 26 pay periods for the year and a gain of $22.74 per pay check before taxes. On the other end of the spectrum a $60,000 dollar a year employee receives a $1650 per year raise or $63.46 per pay check. Neither one that big of an increase.
I am not sure that this has happened to any county employees as a result of this pay raise, but an increase could move some folks into a higher tax bracket. Of course this would result in higher withholding of income tax and social security. If the increase in withholding surpasses the pay increase a net loss results in take home pay.
Can't happen you say? I certainly hope that it doesn't, but I can attest to the fact it can. Happened to me when I was working for the Extension Service. I know this was not the intention of the Commissioners Court when they approved the raise, but it is one of those unintended things that could happen as a result of good intentions.
All that being said, the real reason someone should get a raise is because of performance. Yes, cost of living should be considered, but even then the lower paid individuals should not receive the same percentage increase the top paid employees do.
If you are going to give across the board raises perhaps an amount should be considered rather than a percentage. That way everyone truly gets the same amount. Bottom line for me is that employees need to be paid based on performance. If they do a good job they deserve to be rewarded for it. When those that do not perform do not get a raise they should be told why and then get the boot if they do not change their ways.
I constantly hear comments from the general public that government should be run more like a business. In the real world employees are considered for raises based on their performance. Department heads are better able to judge job performance of their employees and better able to identify those that need raises and those that do not.
The Judge and Commissioners do not have the day to day contact with employees in other departments and can not tell you whether they do a good job or not. The court should allow those that hire and fire their employees determine what if any increase in pay is warranted for their employees, and provide a mechanism for merit increases to keep the good employees working for Milam County.