Escambia County News Politics

Commission: 3% All Around

November 16, 2012

The Escambia County Commission began the discussion last night by talking about three percent cost-of-living increases for county employees, but in the face of a gallery full of disgruntled sheriff officers who were not afforded the increase, the conversation had grown to include the sheriff’s office, as well as employees working for the property appraiser, tax collector and supervisor of elections. But now Amy Lavoy, county numbers cruncher, was telling commissioners the across-the-board increases were gonna run around $3.5 million.

“I was about to ask you, where do you get the money?” said Commissioner Marie Young.

“I was hoping a fire alarm would go off before you asked me that question,” answered Lavoy. “In my opinion, the only way is to make cuts.”

This conversation began during Thursday morning’s work session. Commissioner Kevin White had suggested two percent, then three percent, cost-of-living increases for county employees. The outgoing commissioner noted that the employees had not seen an increase in several years.

By evening, the sheriff’s office had amassed an impressive force to storm the chambers for the regular session. Three of the five commissioners warmed up nicely to the concept of expanding the increases to include the sheriff, as well as the other constitutional offices. As Commissioner Gene Valentino put it, “different gremlins are popping out of the box at different times looking for raises.”

The commission passed the increases on a 3-2 vote, with Young and Commissioner Grover Robinson dissenting.

“I can’t support anything at this point and time,” Robinson had said prior to the vote, questioning the move’s fiscal sense. “It’s not a question of do our employees deserve raises. Absolutely.”

The increase for just the county employees that fall within the commission’s budget, would cost $1.2 million. The sheriff’s office is another $1.6 million. When the remaining constitutional offices are thrown in—except the Clerk of Court, which  already received increases—the cost rises to more than $3 million.

Lavoy estimated the price tag at $3.1 to $3.5 million. She asked the commission what areas of the budget she should consider off-limits for cuts.

“So, now we have to name the sacred cows?” said Chairman Wilson Robertson.

Robertson noted that the county had not taken as big of a hit as expected earlier in the year as a result of the state’s Medicaid bill. There were also the proposed taxes to fund the library and mass transit systems, which would free up some funds in the budget. Other commissioners suggested that the reserves might need to be dipped into in order to fulfill the cost-of-living increases.

The motion to pass the increases hinged on the move being budget-neutral. County staff was tasked with making the math work and bring it back to the commission.

“Really, this just gets the ball rolling,” said Robertson.

Earlier in the meeting, the commission had tackled some other budgetary issues. Two supplemental budget amendments were passed, the first fulfilling a budget request from Sheriff David Morgan, the other setting aside funds for economic development.

Commissioners decided to give Morgan the entirety of his request, more than $353,000. Slightly less than that was put into an economic development fund.

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  • Cat Folsome November 18, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    Well, if UWF is any example, that 3 per cent raise will be beat down by book keeping tricks. UWF gave us all a 1 per cent raise in 2010 and a 2 per cent raise in 2011. Only trouble was, the 1 per cent was actually .07 per cent and the 2 per cent was actually 1.7 per cent. UWF took huge credit for giving us all a 3 per cent pay raise over two years it was actually only 2.4 per cent. That means we have taken a net pay DEcrease of .06 per cent since Governor Tea Party whacked our wages by a full 3 per cent. Figures lie and liars figure.

  • Ames November 18, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    Oops, here is the citation

  • Ames November 18, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    The SSA COLA fir 2013 is 1.7%.

    A cost-of-living raise is an increase in pay
    that’s intended to keep the buying power
    of an employee’s salary the same during a period of inflation. Without a cost-of-
    living raise, the declining value of the
    dollar would leave workers with less real money in their pockets. Cost-of-living raises are also known as cost of living adjustments (COLAs), cost of living allowances and escalator clauses. In the U.S., most cost-of-living raises are
    based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The CPI is an approximation of how much someone must spend to attain
    a certain level of well-being. It measures
    the price of a “market basket” of goods
    and services that a typical household
    buys. Because new products are always
    coming on the market and consumers tend to shift their buying choices as
    prices rise or fall, the CPI includes a
    statistical weighting that adjusts the raw
    price data [source: BLS: CPI]. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which compiles the CPI, bases its measure on the purchases of a sample of wage and clerical workers.
    This is known as the CPI-W and is the standard most commonly used to determine cost of living raises. But not all cost-of-living raises are linked to the CPI. For example, the pay of federal employees is adjusted
    in part by the movement of the Employment Cost Index, which tracks pay levels for various jobs, not prices [source: Congressional Research Service]. The biggest group affected by cost-of-living raises is Social Security recipients. Some employees have
    contracts that include automatic cost-of-living raises. Others work for companies that voluntarily increase
    pay to keep pace with inflation. In at least 10 states, the minimum wage rate is adjusted according to
    inflation, so low-wage workers receive periodic raises [source: Cauchon]. Another type of cost-of-living raise, often called “locality pay,” takes into account not inflation but local
    prices. When an employee is transferred to a high-cost area, a company may adjust his or her salary to
    make up for the loss of buying power. For example, the U.S. military raises pay temporarily for personnel
    stationed in high-cost-of-living posts. The amount of the cost-of-living raises varies with inflation. Read on for more details about the average
    So, again, what method has the county used foe their wafe increase?

  • jeeperman November 18, 2012 at 9:03 am

    I will not assume that the person using the name Wilson Robertson is actually him.
    Unless Rick Outzen comes on here telling us he called Wilson and confirmed that it is indeed Wilson.

    I know Robinson does comment here.
    This would be a first for Wilson.

  • Citizen November 17, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    Wilson, if that is actually you who commented on here, you are a very arrogant person. The old “if you can do it better” statement shows your true side. We all know you’ve got more money than you’ll ever spend, but you really don’t need to remind folks through your words. You have a good life.

  • EPenn November 17, 2012 at 8:00 pm

    Mr. Robertson, It’s because people like me in this county are not an endless source of revenue. I feel for teh employees not getting a raise for years, but that is true for teh greater mayourity of people in the county not in government too. In fact I have lost almost all my benefits and have taken a pay cut over the past 4 years. With utilities like Gulf Power and ECUA slow killing most of us with rate increases (2% at a time but 20 times in past 5 years is still a 40% increase)… Maybe a man who claims to represent the people should learn about those people and not just hook up your ‘friends’ (GOBs). What happened to quiting if you could not put your name on a buddy’s application? Not a man of your word? ha ha

  • Momma November 17, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    Wilson is rich, Valentino is rich, Touart is rich. They will help the good ole boys get richer. The beat goes on.

  • RTDavis November 17, 2012 at 6:40 pm

    A response to Wilson Robertson who says: “Why don’t all the people like c.j. Lewis and others that have all the answers run for office and then you can vote. I don’t see trying to get our fine employees a raise after 6 years as throwing money away.”

    I do not think others have all the answers, but I do think that I (and perhaps others) are entitled to ask reasonable questions, which were implied in my earlier comments. Let me restate my question more directly: Why do government officials make commitments to spend money without knowing ahead of time the sources of that money?

    Now, let me frame the issue in a different way: When I worked in federal government, there was absolutely no way that I could spend money that had not been appropriated. So, in the case of local government, do you not think it would be better fiscal sense (and political, PR, and common sense, too) to state clearly the sources for the pay raises before making the commitments to promise the pay raises?

    That is a simple question, and I ask it without intending to run for office myself.

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