Discussions on “low employee morale,” and about privatizing emergency medical services were among the items discussed at another pay scale work session with several department heads June 18.
Commissioners were discussing changing pay grades following a meeting with several department heads when HR director Tracy Dake said she feels employee morale among county employees is low.
“Employee morale is low here in the (county) complex?” District 4 commissioner John Pethel said. “Well, when they say that tell them all their (health) insurance is paid for and other counties don’t do that.”
Dake said the issue isn’t necessarily money related.
“Employees don’t feel they are appreciated for a job well done, it’s not necessarily about the pay,” Dake responded. She also said morale could be improved by some encouraging words or a “pat on the back” from commissioners.
District 1 commissioner Stanley Thomas said he doesn’t feel employees realize that health insurance costs go up every year and the county handles those without decreasing employee pay, or asking employees to share the cost. “They don’t realize that that’s a cost to the county every year,” Thomas said.
And Thomas pointed out that employees should also look at job security, saying working for the county was not like working for a private corporation that could be shut down when times get tough.
“We must have public safety and other services for citizens, and it goes a long ways to know a job is going to be there,” he said.
Chairman Anthony Dove said the average cost for health insurance per year, per employee is $6,000.
“Well, that’s something to say to counter morale,” Pethel said.
Thomas pointed out that he thinks morale could also be low due to the salary increases given to some employees over the last five-to-six years who work for a constitutionally elected officers, while those who work in other departments didn’t receive such raises. He said this makes the pay system seem unfair.
Dove said that over the next three or four years health insurance costs will be “number three or four” on the list of biggest expenses they will face.
“For the next few years, those costs are going to be up in the air,” he said, later pointing out that eventually, all revenue increases comes from the taxpayer.
A discussion about current and prospective pay grades for EMS and the pay provided for such services in surrounding counties sparked a question from one commissioner about the possibility of privatizing those services.
District 5 commissioner Jim Escoe said he would like to see some figures on the cost of contracting with a company like Clarke and Oconee counties do, versus keeping and maintaining the service as it is now.
Dove said such a move would be up to the board, but that privatizing such services was usually done in areas with larger populations.
“It’s geared to the population,” Thomas agreed. “It’s all about the money (for those companies). If we did that and it didn’t work out, where do we go from there? We would have let all our employees and equipment go…it could be looked at but it would take millions of dollars to go back if it didn’t work out.”
Escoe said he had not heard anything negative about Oconee County’s experience with National EMS and said he would like some comparative figures on the costs.
But Dove pointed out that Oconee is more heavily populated than Madison County and that more of its residents are likely privately insured, as opposed to Madison County with its generally lower income level.
“It’s a matter of do you want ‘it’s all about the money,’ or do you want it (the service) to be there when you need it,” Dove said.
Escoe said of course he wanted the service to be there when it was needed, but he also felt they should look at the figures.
District 3 commissioner Mike Youngblood said he would never vote to privatize EMS services.
“I’ve been in the system long enough to know how it works and I’ve checked into private systems,” he said. “I’d never sign off on it.”