It's official: County workers get a raise


Published: Tuesday, September 24, 2013 at 9:29 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, September 24, 2013 at 9:29 p.m.

After six years without a true raise, Alachua County employees will finally get one next fiscal year — and the less they make, the higher the percentage increase they'll receive.

The County Commission approved the county's final budget of about $325.41 million and its related property tax rates for fiscal year 2014 Tuesday during its second and last public hearing on the matter.

The county's property tax rates for the general fund and its three municipal services taxing units, which fund law enforcement, fire rescue and unincorporated services, will all increase for the new fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

The general fund millage rate will rise from 8.6 mills to 8.79 mills. The law enforcement MSTU millage rate will increase from 1.67 to 2.15. The fire protection MSTU will go from 1.34 to 1.4, while the unincorporated area millage rate will increase to 0.50. One mill equals $1 for every $1,000 of taxable value.

Commissioners Susan Baird and Mike Byerly voted against the general fund property tax rate and budget, which were approved in a pair of 3-2 votes.

Baird only voted in favor of the law enforcement MSTU property tax rate and budget, while Byerly only voted for the fire services MSTU property tax rate and budget.

Throughout the budget development process, employee raises were a central issue debated by commissioners.

The county's initial budget proposal included a 3 percent across-the-board raise, but it was eliminated due to financial challenges and replaced with a 1.5 percent raise that the commission tentatively approved at its first public hearing on the budget earlier this month.

During the commission's morning meeting on Tuesday, County Manager Betty Baker asked and received the board's approval to amend the raise structure for the fiscal year 2014 budget. The new plan for raises was approved Tuesday evening as part of the final budget.

County employees will receive either a 1.5 percent raise or a $850 pay bump, depending on their salaries.

Anyone making $56,667 or more will receive a 1.5 percent raise, which amounts to $850 or more depending on the salary.

For employees making $56,667, $850 is a roughly a 1.5 percent increase. Those making beneath that salary level will get the $850 pay bump, which is an increase of more than 1.5 percent for them.

Around 83 percent of the county's workforce makes less than $56,667 per year, so that portion of the workforce will get a raise of more than 1.5 percent under the new raise structure.

The $850 increase represents a 1.89 percent increase for someone making $45,000 a year and a 4.25 percent increase for an employee earning $20,000 annually, according to a county report.

However, many employees who get the $850 raise still won't be getting as much as they would have if the 3 percent increase the county initially planned had been kept in the budget. Those making $30,000 a year, for example, will get a 2.83 percent bump.

A flat 1.5 percent across-the-board raise would have cost the county about $1.5 million, while this new plan will cost about $2.1 million, according to a county report. There was adequate funding in the budget to cover this change.

One Public Works employee told the commission Tuesday that the new plan for raises was much better than the straight 1.5 percent raise, which he said was a joke. He thanked Baker for developing the proposal.

"I just think it's an excellent thing that you came up with," he said.

But another Public Works employee asked the commission not to forget about its workers when it comes to raises in future years.

Contact Morgan Watkins at 338-3104 or morgan.watkins@gainesville.com.

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