BROOKSVILLE — Salaries for Hernando County government employees lag behind comparable public sector salaries by about 4 percent, according to a study presented to the Hernando County Commission this week.
Commissioners responded by unanimously approving a pay raise plan that will increase salaries for 361 of the county's 745 employees. Of those who will see raises, 275 are employees who make less than $50,000, Adrienne Johnson of Evergreen Solutions told commissioners.
While the study showed that some employees are paid more than their peers, no one will be asked to take a pay cut, Johnson said.
The commission's action was the hot topic on Wednesday during a contract bargaining session between Teamsters Local 79 and county management.
Russ Wetherington, the chief negotiator for the county, said the raises will happen because they are a market adjustment. But John Sholtes, business agent for the Teamsters, said bargaining salaries is the union's job.
Sholtes said he needed more information before he could pass judgment on the raises approved by the commission, but indicated that neither he nor his team would recommend employee approval of any contract that doesn't include pay raises for all employees.
Wetherington said the final value of the pay package approved by the board is between $500,000 and $1 million. To cover the raises, the county will suspend the buyback portion of its paid-time-off program.
Every year, the county budgets money so that employees who have accrued a certain level of extra paid time off can take a portion of that time, at 80 percent of its value, as a cash bonus. But county policy allows the suspension of the program at any time by the County Commission, so next year that benefit will not be available, said George Zoettlein, assistant county administrator for budget.
County officials will be talking in the coming months about how to generate the funds needed for the recurring cost of the higher salaries.
The pay study, which utilized information from eight other similar public-sector employers, used a 30-year career scenario to establish the pay schedule. County staffers are working to place each employee in the appropriate job category, taking into account their experience.
Sholtes told Wetherington that he also was not in favor of creating a pay step plan, where it would take employees 30 years to make the maximum salary. Bargaining over salary will continue on Sept. 11.
Contact Barbara Behrendt at email@example.com or (352) 848-1434.