County employees receive raises next year, may face furlough days
ARENAC COUNTY — Non-union county employees and elected officials will both get a raise next year, but the Board of Commissioners said employees can expect furlough days that may offset the increased wages.
The Commissioners voted to give non-union employees of the county a two-percent wage increase; and a one-percent raise to elected officials, which could increase another one-percent depending on property tax revenues.
Board Chairman Raymond Daniels said the raises were out of fairness and consistent with what union employees will be paid next year.
“The union people are all getting a two-percent increase,” he said. “We asked them if they could take a wage freeze and no one wanted to go with us on that.”
Since the wage freeze was rejected, Daniels said parity in the county building would be diminished, although it appears on paper everyone is getting an equal increase in pay. He said property tax reports received next June from the Equalization Department will dictate whether or not elected officials get the full raise and if the numbers are too low, furlough days – unpaid days off – may have to be imposed on employees.
“We won’t do any furlough days until we get those numbers in June. … We could be shoving eight or nine furlough days in that six-month period,” Daniels said. “It won’t be equal. The problem with doing it this way is the 911 people, you can’t close that down. … You can’t close the jail. That’s going to be the unfair part that I was hoping to avoid.
“I’m a little bit disappointed in the way it turned out,” he added, explaining that commissioners are all taking an individual $840 pay cut next year (total savings of $4,200), and he was hoping employees would follow suit.
Treasurer Dennis Stawowy said the property tax numbers are projected to increase 1 – 1.5 percent next summer, a number the commissioners, county treasurer, county clerk and county equalization department came up with for next year’s budget projection.
“We all had our best guess and that’s the number we arrived at mutually,” Stawowy said, adding it’s about half of last year’s projection. “They’re just being conservative.”
According to Stawowy, if the numbers come in as projected, furlough days could be avoided.
“If they get that (equalization) report in May and it shows $100,000 or $80,000 less than their estimate, that’s when you’ll need those furlough days,” he added.
Daniels said several union and non-union employees had approached the board and said they’d take a wage freeze to ensure job security, however negotiations with some county units didn't produce enough support for the freeze. Now he’s worried that if property tax numbers come in much lower than projected, furlough days may not be enough to stay within the budget and then layoffs, in a county building already stretched extremely thin, may be inevitable.
“Somebody could easily get a raise out of this, but somebody else could wind up losing a job,” Daniels said.
The county’s 2010 budget projection will be available for viewing on Monday, Dec. 7. A full copy of the 2010 salary resolution will be published in the Dec. 9 edition of the Independent.