Raises still possible for county employees

By Brandy Volovecky

The Escambia County Commission completed the first day in its two-day Committee of the Whole Budget Workshop on Tuesday July 9. Interim County Administrator George Touart presented a budget of $359.72 million for the 2013-2014 fiscal year.

“Every year the administrator has to make some pretty tough decisions – we’ve done that this year,” Touart said of the budget-making process.

One particularly difficult hurdle for the county has been the transitioning of the Escambia County Jail from Sheriff David Morgan to the county. Medical care and employee compensation are among the jail-related issues that have to be considered in the budget.

The board unanimously passed a motion to take the internal services funds from the Sherriff’s Office and the clerk of the circuit court, a total of approximately $3 million, and use the money to offset the cost associated with the transitioning of the jail.

Also discussed was the proposed 3 percent raise for county employees next year. Touart said money has already been set aside for those raises.

“We are doing everything possible to give that 3 percent raise,” Touart said. “That is my pledge to the board and that is my pledge to the employees.”

Commissioner Lumon May said that while he was in support of the 3 percent raise to county employees, he wasn’t necessarily in support of “across-the-board raises” if there wasn’t enough money to do so. May asked Touart to take employee salary differences into consideration when determining potential wages citing that some employees make more than $100,000 a year while others “don’t even make minimum wage.”

“We certainly ought to be looking at bringing those people who aren’t making livable wages up to a livable standard,” he said.

Amy Lovoy, Escambia County Director of Management and Budget Services, then went over the proposed budgets for outside agencies. Commissioners Robinson and Robertson said they would support keeping the budgets for outside agencies constant from the previous fiscal year. May said he would rather see some kind of performance measurement when deciding how much money to allocate to each agency.

“Are there initial goals that people are trying to achieve and expected outcomes that we can measure to make sure that we are being good stewards of tax payer dollars?” May asked his fellow commissioners. “It’s great to go ahead and just give everybody the same thing they got last year but we need to be encouraging performance and not just mediocrity.”

Robinson said he would like to appoint May to set up a system to measure agency performance for the next year but he felt it was too late to try and use performance measurements for this budget.

Later in the meeting, Ray Palmer, executive director of the Pensacola Sports Association, and Steve Hayes, vice president of tourism for the Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce, spoke to the board about the potential for a future sports museum in Pensacola. While there seemed to be a consensus that a sports museum would be supported by the board, it was decided that it was too early to set aside any money for the museum until at least the next fiscal year.

Budget discussions on constitutional officers and department heads were set to take place on the second day of the workshop on Wednesday at 9 a.m. at the Escambia Government Complex.