By Ken de la Bastide Kokomo Tribune
---- — One by one, county office holders requested the Howard County Council consider providing a salary increase for employees in 2014.
Although many of the presented budgets didn’t include a request for a salary increase, the pitch for additional pay for employees was a recurring theme.
Employees have not received a pay increase since 2009, but over the past few years have received bonuses based on the amount of under spending in county budgets.
There was a $500 bonus approved for full-time employees in 2011, $625 in 2012 and $800 this year.
The discussion of monetary compensation for employees took place during the budget review of the 2014 departmental requests by the council which started Wednesday and ended Thursday.
The 2013 general fund budget is $17.4 million and the requested budget for next year is $17.9 million.
Councilman James Papacek said going through the budget process his focus was on providing core services required of the county.
“If the money is available, I would like to give employees a raise,” he said.
Superior Court 3 Judge Doug Tate said the council should give office holders the choice of reducing staff and providing the other employees a pay increase. He said two positions were eliminated from the court in 2012 and 2013 and the court is still operating efficiently.
“Are we serious about asking officeholders for significant cuts,” Tate asked. “Give employees additional benefits.”
Tate said he believes the employees would rather have an increase in their salary, which is permanent, as opposed to waiting to see if a bonus is being provided.
“A study showed that the per capital spending in Howard County for the operation of county government is less than it was five years ago,” Tate said.
He said the work force could be decreased and county government could become more efficient, but the remaining employees should receive some benefit.
Superior Court I Judge Bill Menges said if the county doesn’t increase the salaries, good employees will leave for higher paying jobs.
Several offices did request specific raises including Coroner Jay Price and the Public Defender’s office.
Price is requesting a 16.5 percent increase in his 2014 salary, a raise of $5,954 to a salary of $42,000 next year.
Public Defender Steve Raquet said a change in the state guidelines for the program is requiring that the Public Defender and the chief deputy are to be paid the same as the prosecutor and chief deputy in that office.
Under the state pay guidelines, Raquet’s salary would increase by $10,224 to a yearly amount of $80,467 which is a 14.5 percent raise. The chief deputy will receive an increase of three percent or $1,814 to an annual salary of $60,350.