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Budget delays raises for county employees; $500 lump sum payments denied

Budget delays raises for county employees; $500 lump sum payments denied


Catawba County is delaying its annual, performance-based raises for employees until April 2021 due to COVID-19 revenue losses. The Catawba County Board of Commissioners also decided Thursday not to hand out $500 lump sums to county employees in July as recommended by the county manager.

In County Manager Mick Berry’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2020-21, which starts July 1, the county’s 2-percent, performance-based raises for employees would be pushed to April 2021 to help the county make up for some expected tax revenue loss, Berry said.

Typically, employees are evaluated annually around their date of hire and receive the raise and $400 at that time if they meet performance standards.

Instead of the typical annual raises throughout the year, Berry recommended holding off on those until 2021 and offering a $500 lump sum to each county employee to acknowledge the work during COVID-19.

The county board of commissioners voted three to two not to hand out the $500 bonuses.

Commissioners Randy Isenhower, Barbara Beatty and Dan Hunsucker voted not to give the lump sum to employees. Commissioners Sherry Butler and Kitty Barnes voted to give employees the $500.

The lump sum would have cost the county $635,000.

Isenhower said with the county trying to save money and so many people out of work in the county, he didn’t think it was the right time to give out the $500 bonuses. “I think it’s a good gesture but I don’t think this is a good time,” he said.

He added, “I think they (county employees) ought to just appreciate the job they’ve been able to keep working.”

Butler said she felt county employees deserved the money because they’ve kept working through the pandemic. Many county employees interact with the public daily, potentially exposing themselves to the virus, she said.

“They certainly deserve to be recognized,” Butler said. “These people have risked their own health and their families to serve the county.”

After a public hearing on the budget at Thursday’s meeting, commissioners finalized other details of the budget, as well.

The commissioners decided not to increase Newton’s fire district taxes by 3 cents as requested by the district but recommended a 1-cent increase. They also declined a request for $10,000 from Carolina Land and Lakes nonprofit.

The commissioners agreed to delay having county parks open seven days a week to save money. Butler suggested hiring two new full-time employees for parks but the additional employees did not make the budget.

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