Madison County commissioners gave county employees a Christmas gift Monday night — a one-time cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) that will put $900 in the pocket of full-time employees.
The board voted 3-1 in favor of the measure, with commissioners Stanley Thomas, Pete Bond and Mike Youngblood voting for the move, while John Pethel provided the lone “No.” Commissioner Jim Escoe was not at the meeting due to an illness in the family.
The COLA will cost approximately $160,000 and will be pulled from the county’s cash reserves, which are expected to be in the $4 million range at year’s end. The adjustment will not go to elected officials. Employees who have been on the job for less than 90 days will not be eligible for the adjustment. The county has 178 employees who receive benefits. Half-time employees will receive $450, with 75-percent employees receiving $675.
Board members voting for the measure said county employees have worked hard for the county without any cost-of-living increases for several years. They have noted that the county government has consistently cut back its expenses and that the workers have helped put the county in good economic shape despite tough times.
“The employees played a huge part in putting us in the financial position we’re in now,” said Youngblood. “I’d like to see them rewarded for that.”
Pethel adamantly disagreed with the action. He said employees are deserving of more money, but he said county taxpayers can’t afford to give them additional pay. He said the county pays 100 percent of health insurance benefits for its employees and that the government recently absorbed a $321 premium increase per employee.
“We’re talking about taxpayer money,” said Pethel. “People are struggling to pay their taxes. And some can’t pay. Employees ought to be glad they have a job. So many don’t have a job.”