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Fayette Commission's unannounced non-agenda item: Raises for county workers

There was no way for the public to know what was coming Thursday night — since the item never appeared on a public agenda — but the Fayette County Commission unanimously approved

setting aside $579,000 for employee “pay for performance” raises this year.

The idea was suggested by Commission Chairman Jack Smith, who noted that over the past four years the county has saved $10 million, including $3 million in the recently-ended budget year.

The raises were not listed as an item for discussion on the commission agenda; rather it was brought up during a recommendation from county staff to shift funds based on the $3 million in savings from this year’s budget.

The raises will not be given across the board to all county employees. Instead they will only be given to qualified employees who are vetted through the county’s latest “pay for performance” evaluation program.

That program was adopted three years ago but has never been used, as the economy has led to no pay raises of any kind for county employees the past three years.

Smith said the reason the county has been able to “under-spend” its budget by $10 million in the past four years has been the dedication of employees, a number of whom have absorbed larger workloads as the county has had a hiring freeze for three consecutive years which meant that as employees left they have not been replaced, with the exception of those in public safety.

“They have not had cost of living raises, merit raises, pay for performance or any other method of increase, yet they have continued to do their job and they have done it well,” Smith said.

The county’s pay for performance program allows most employees to be eligible for raises of either 2.5 or 5 percent. But the commission only set aside funding equal to 2.5 percent of all county employees’ salary, so it remains uncertain how many employees will be awarded the pay for performance raises.

County Manager Jack Krakeel said the intent of the county’s new pay for performance plan is to “reward employees who go above and beyond the requirements of the job.”

It will be up to department heads and managers to determine who their star performers are and to award them accordingly, Krakeel noted.

Those who are already at the top of their pay grade for a given position will not be eligible for the pay for performance raises, Krakeel added.

Krakeel pointed out that over the past several years county employees have had to pay more and more out of pocket for health insurance and Commissioner Herb Frady noted that employees are also required to pay more into a defined benefits pension plan as well, which has also saved the county money compared to its previous defined contribution only retirement system.

Krakeel noted that the county’s current workforce is about 5 percent smaller than it was three years ago due to the hiring freeze and positions that have remained unfilled due to attrition.

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