Favorite

County gold rush 

The Pulaski County Quorum Court is weighing up to 9 percent in pay increases for themselves and the other 1,200 or so county employees.

The timing isn't good. Sales tax revenues are down and property values are stagnant. Most businesses and governments are cutting jobs and pay.

And, still, the Quorum Court is considering a 4 percent bonus for itself and other employees now and then a pay raise of up to 5 percent for itself and others at the first of next year. Total cost could be $2.5 million.

This is on the heels of an 8 percent pay boost for county employees in 2008 — the sum of a 5 percent pay raise and a 3 percent bonus. Give them 4 percent this year and 5 percent to start 2010 and you're looking at 17 percent in pay enhancements over a 24-month period.

The argument is that county employees suffered through some lean years. They got a 4 percent raise in 2005, nothing in 2006, 3 percent in 2007 and 8 percent in 2008. County employees do enjoy good benefits — 12 days of paid sick leave every year, 10 days of paid vacation after six months on the job, 11 paid holidays and FREE health insurance (employee only), a tax-free benefit worth about $5,000.

Supporters of the pay raise say employees have been working extra hard to make up for vacancies. But the vacancies tend to be clustered in certain areas. About half are at the sheriff's office and jail. So we reward overworked jailers and deputies by giving elected, part-time Quorum Court members the same pay raise? Why not raise jailer pay significantly? Or hire more jailers? And, better still, why not keep accumulating cash to open more jail beds?

It seems cold to oppose a pay increase. The chief deputy clerk complains that average pay in his office is only $28,500. That's not a king's ransom. Federal statistics show, however, that it's in line with pay for similar jobs in the metro area. It's almost the minimum state starting pay for certified public school teachers. It's more, cough, than many newspaper reporters make. But job security is worth something. Ask a laid-off reporter.

There's little evidence of significant loss of county employees to other businesses — a nurse or two at the jail, maybe, and the occasional skilled office worker. There's little evidence either, that the county has given any thought to whether it has created too many jobs to begin with (law enforcement is an obvious exception). It might be that county employees are underpaid. But more evidence is needed. We do know the county is short-changing vital areas. Its leaders say, basically, that taxpayers can afford bonuses but not zoning or more jailers and patrol deputies.

Justice of the Peace Phil Stowers, a fiscally conservative Republican, is on target. He's open to a salary increase. “I am generally supportive of reasonable and fact-based cost of living raises,” he told me. “They allow us to attract and retain a stable workforce. What is being proposed is more than $1 million dollars in non-incentive based, one time bonuses. I believe if we pass this we will be found derelict in our duty in the court of public opinion…”

Raising pay twice in three months on a one-size-fits-all basis, beginning with elected officials, is — along with deficit spending and poor services — the sort of thing that has made voters cold historically to county tax increases. Public opinion does count.

Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • The assault on Obamacare begins

    Donald Trump Friday night signed an executive order directing government to scale back Obamacare to the extent possible. Though the signing was mostly symbolic, it likely has implications for Arkansas.
    • Jan 21, 2017
  • Two dead in North Little Rock shooting

    two people were fatally wounded about 9 p.m. Friday in a home in the 1400 block of Division Street, North Little Rock.
    • Jan 21, 2017
  • 2nd Amendment meets the 1st in Fayetteville on campus carry

    They've had a forum in Fayetteville today on Rep. Charlie Collins' fervent desire to force more pistol-packing people onto the campus at the University of Arkansas (and every other college in Arkansas.) He got an earful from opponents.
    • Jan 20, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Supremely discredited

    Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Rhonda Wood and her allies continue to discredit the state's highest court.
    • Jul 30, 2015
  • Hutchinson pulls Faubus move

    I don't know what if anything might arise or be planned in the future relative to Gov. Asa Hutchinson's order to end Medicaid reimbursement for medical services (not abortion) provided by Planned Parenthood in Arkansas.
    • Aug 20, 2015
  • Neighborliness, in Little Rock and beyond

    I had a parochial topic in mind this week — a surprise plan by Mayor Mark Stodola to address the Arkansas Arts Center's many needs.
    • Nov 19, 2015

Most Shared

  • Sarah Huckabee Sanders to be deputy White House press secretary

    Donald Trump announced additional White House staff today, notably including Sarah Huckabee Sanders, deputy assistant to the president and principal deputy press secretary.
  • Legislation filed for $10 million school voucher program

    The legislation to vastly expand transfer of state tax dollars to private schools came before the school choice day event I mentioned earlier.
  • Facing closure, Wilson Elementary families deliver angry message to school leaders

    "Why do you guys not care about your community? You’re tearing it down, not building it up, especially in the black community … It’s just a simple question — do you care?" one mother asked the superintendent. "Ma’am, I do care deeply about this district, and I do believe wholeheartedly we are making a better district every day," Poore replied.
  • Trumpeting

    When President-elect Trump announced he would, in a few days, force Congress to enact comprehensive health insurance for everyone, poor or rich, that would provide better and cheaper care than they've ever gotten, you had to wonder whether this guy is a miracle worker or a fool.
  • Putin and Trump

    Here's a thought exercise: What do you suppose would happen if Russian strongman Vladimir Putin decided to clarify remarks he reportedly made about Donald Trump during the election campaign?

Latest in Max Brantley

  • Pork and more

    Some notes on disparate topics before I take a vacation break.
    • Jan 19, 2017
  • Praising Asa

    Let us now praise the governor for a starkly moderate record, at least in comparison with other red-state executives.
    • Jan 12, 2017
  • More on LRSD tax

    When the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and a Walton Foundation-paid lobbyist, long devoted critics of the Little Rock School District, lead the messaging for a quarter-billion dollars in new tax debt for the district, it is cause for caution.
    • Jan 5, 2017
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

1.73-carat diamond found at Crater of Diamonds State Park

1.73-carat diamond found at Crater of Diamonds State Park

Jack Pearadin and Doug Nelsen found a 1.73-carat diamond after nearly a year of searching the park's field.

Event Calendar

« »

January

S M T W T F S
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31  

Most Viewed

  • Putin and Trump

    Here's a thought exercise: What do you suppose would happen if Russian strongman Vladimir Putin decided to clarify remarks he reportedly made about Donald Trump during the election campaign?

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Putin and Trump

    • You signed yourself "silly," and you surely are.

    • on January 23, 2017
  • Re: Putin and Trump

    • Lyons doesn't have an ex-wife, silly.

    • on January 23, 2017
  • Re: Putin and Trump

    • What? That was all made up? Oh my. Well, let's hope he gets busy on…

    • on January 22, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation