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County pay steps approved narrowly

Another heated discussion led to another split vote among the Clark County Fiscal Court to approve another part of the county’s pay plan.

Wednesday morning, Magistrate Greg Elkins presented and made a motion to assign steps within pay grades and job classifications for current county employees. Elkins said he assigned employees based on their current salaries with the goal of not reducing anyone’s salary.

Department heads, who were not given copies of the document, said it wouldn’t fix problems of two employees in the same step and grade, but with differing levels of experience and seniority. While the department heads argued the proposal wouldn’t help retain employees, Elkins said his goal was to make sure no one lost financially on the deal.

“It’s not that we’re opposed to an increase,” Elkins said. “This is to get a baseline.”

After Elkins’ motion, and a number of amendments, the measure passed on a 4-3 vote with Judge-Executive Henry Branham and magistrates Sheila McCord and Robert Blanton voting no. All three wanted more time to examine the proposal.

Branham repeatedly asked Elkins to meet with him and the department heads to seek other input or ideas, but there was no agreement.

“The department heads made recommendations,” Animal Shelter Director Adrianna Wills told the court. “We can’t even advocate for our employees because we don’t know what you’re looking at. We can’t give you an explanation.”

The established policy called for new hires to start at step one, Branham said, with no way to appeal a higher step.

Following the vote, Elkins said the department heads could come back to the fiscal court with recommendations for employees to be placed at a higher step for quantifiable reasons, such as experience.

“We should not lose any employees because of what we did today,” Elkins said.

Branham and the department heads were worried about keeping current employees in light of Elkins’ proposal. County Road Supervisor Kevin Wilson said he heard from a community member recently three of his current employees had asked about other jobs.

“We need to keep our current employees or it’ll be winter and we won’t have anyone here and it’ll be your fault,” McCord said.

A subcommittee and the fiscal court have been working on establishing a set pay schedule for county employees for about two years. Each grade would set minimum salaries for a position. Within each grade are 40 steps, each amounting to about a 1 percent increase. The steps include annual raises and longevity raises.

Branham said a situation has developed over time where new hires benefited from increases in minimum wage while established employees did not. Now, there is a situation where newer employees could make more than veteran workers.

About Fred Petke

Fred Petke is a reporter for The Winchester Sun. His beats include cops, courts, fire, public records, city and county government and other news. To contact Fred, email fred.petke@winchestersun.com or call 859-759-0051.

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