By Catharin Shepard •
Staff writer •
The Hoke County Board of Commissioners intend for all county employees to eventually be making at least $15 an hour, beginning with the first of two planned pay increases set to kick in July 1.
The Hoke County Board of Commissioners approved the two-phase plan last week as part of the 2020-2021 fiscal year budget. The $53.7 million balanced budget did not raise the county property tax rate, and did not increase water or sewer fees.
Commission Chairman James Leach first proposed the plan to bring all county staff members up to a minimum $15 an hour pay schedule. The board members discussed the proposal last week in budget talks before voting to add the plan to the budget.
Leach proposed the pay increase as a means to help county employees.
“They deserve to have a good living so let’s do something to help them have that good living if they work here for the county,” he said Tuesday.
The commission was “very excited” about moving forward with the pay increase, Leach said.
County employees currently making less than $15 an hour should see a pay raise as of July 1, though depending on what they were making, their pay may not go all the way to
$15 with the first increase.
“Some were $8 an hour, $9 an hour, and the board decided we’re not able to do it all in one stage,” Leach said. “So we’re going to bring them up to at least $12 (an hour) now, and there will be a stage two.”
The initial raise will affect at least 22 county employees, and cost the county about $36,900 this year.
Commissioners will look at implementing the second phase of the plan next budget season in April-June of 2021. Then they can decide to increase county employees pay to meet the $15 an hour goal.
The plan should help working parents who are sometimes working multiple jobs to help provide for their families, Leach said. The chairman proposed the idea at a commission meeting in June.
In other budget matters, the county proposed to fund Hoke County Schools current expense budget at a rate of $600 per student. With an estimated 9,500 students set to enroll in fall of this year, the county would fund the school system with $5.7 million in local tax dollars.
The proposed county school funding also included $1.3 million in capital outlay. That amount includes $600,000 to pay for new Chromebooks for the schools’ ongoing “one-to-one” initiative of providing a computer device for every student in Hoke County Schools. The capital outlay also included $703,550 for other school projects.
The county’s proposed budget also included funding for 14 new vehicles, including eight cars for the Hoke County Sheriff’s Office, and vehicles for the Health Department, Emergency Management, Inspections, Public buildings and the governing body.
The manager’s proposal also included funding for several newly created county departments. The new departments included grant manager, to be paid $55,280, and audio and security manager, to be paid $50,082.
The proposal additionally contains funding for several new hires, including a fire safety inspector, two maintenance assistants, a housekeeper, in-home care coordinator, a clerk and a child support agent. Several other positions included reclassifications for a few Department of Social Services, Senior Services and Health Department employees.
The proposed budget for the county’s enterprise funds was set at $9.4 million for public utilities, with no fee increase for county sewer or water service; and $2.8 million for solid waste, with no fee increase for that service. Enterprise funds are generally meant to be self-sustaining funds.