County debates pay hike

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Madison County Commissioner’s Court again on Monday balked at large raises requested for clerks in both the District Attorney’s and District Clerk’s offices.

Commissioner Phillip Grisham said he felt it was a lot of money to increase pay for the clerk in the DA’s Office from just over $12 to more than $19.

“That’s a lot of money for a promotional raise,” he said.

However, District Attorney Brian Risinger said that he understood that since the salary committee was abolished, department heads could fill positions with pay at their discretion, provided the funds already were budgeted.

However, Grisham said the Commissioner’s Court became the salary committee.

“I’m trying to pay somebody in accordance to what that job is worth,” Risinger said. “It’s probably one of the most difficult jobs in the entire county, because it involves so many different aspects, including victim advocate coordinator, budgeting, felony filing and interaction with other department heads.”

Risinger said she has earned it, basically performing two jobs over the last six months.

Commissioner Carl Cannon said that from the county’s perspective, the clerk has been there only six months, whereas the former employee had been there eight years and earned her raises.

“It seems a little unfair to raise somebody that’s been there just six months like that,” Cannon said. “There’s going to be repercussions for us if we start talking a big raise for someone that’s been there that long.”

Risinger said he’s not asking for anything more in his budget, he’s just using what’s already there.

Grisham said that there needs to be raise limits — 10 percent for promotions and 50 cents an hour for incentive raises.

“We’re fixing to go into a budget season where we’re going to have to cut,” Grisham said. “Maybe not this year, but maybe the next year if oil prices don’t go up.”

Grisham said that all department heads felt their assistants deserved good raises; however, if they granted all of them, pretty soon the county would be bankrupt. And even if the money is there, it will be cut in the new budget.

Risinger reiterated that he was not looking for a budget change, but to pay what already was in his budget.

Grisham said that other department heads had money available for raises, but then asked that at the end of the year, would his clerk feel comfortable when the county has to cut her salary?

“I’m sorry. I can’t go along with it,” Grisham said.

District Clerk Rhonda Savage said she had planned to do away with a position, and use the money budgeted for that position as a way to pay her clerks better.

Savage said that also would save the county money since it won’t have to provide benefits for that deleted position.

The county discussed amending the raise policy, but did not because it was not on the day’s agenda.

Risinger also questioned the idea that all raises were given for longevity, and not merit.

Grisham said that longevity is key toward salaries growing.

Commissioner Ricky Driskell then made the motion to raise the DA clerk’s and one District Clerk’s assistant to $16 per hour, and the second District Clerk’s salary to $14 per hour. The motion was approved, with Commissioner Sam Cole voting against the raises and County Judge C.E. McDaniel Jr. abstaining.

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