Sedgwick County employees will be eligible for performance-based raises next year after commissioners Wednesday approved implementing a 2.5 percent raise pool.
The raise pool means some employees won’t get any increase in their salary while others may get raises of up to 4 percent, County Manager William Buchanan said after the meeting.
He estimated the cost of providing raises at $3.3 million next year.
Commissioners Tim Norton, Jim Skelton and Dave Unruh voted to give employees raises based on performance. Commissioners Karl Peterjohn and Richard Ranzau voted against the raise pool, saying the economy still is too uncertain.
Ranzau urged the county to give out bonuses instead because they are a one-time expense. But that idea didn’t gain any traction.
Commissioners approved the raise pool in August, when they adopted the county’s budget for next year. But they asked Buchanan to come back later in the year with a report on how the county was doing before implementing raises.
The raises will go into effect Jan. 1. The average salary for county employees is $38,000.
The raise pool also helps offset a change in the county’s overall compensation plan that shifts more of the cost of healthcare to employees.
“The local economy is getting better,” Buchanan said.
Unemployment in the county decreased from 8 percent in July to 6.2 percent at last count, Buchanan said. The number of non-governmental employees has increased 2.2 percent in the past year, he said.
And collection of retail sales taxes is up 4.5 percent from last year, he said.
“So the local economy is showing some signs of improvement,” Buchanan said. “Sedgwick County finance, on the other hand, is in great shape.”
The county had projected to end this year with a $3.4 million deficit but will close the books about $923,000 in the black, Buchanan said.
Rating agencies have given the county its highest grade: AAA.
“We know our viability is judged by the private sector,” Buchanan said. “The private sector says we’re doing great.”
Ranzau said he still worries that the economy isn’t out of the woods yet.
He asked Buchanan if he could project the future of the local economy.
“If I could do that, you and I would be doing something else, buddy,” Buchanan countered.
Peterjohn said he would not accept a raise.
Many people in the community haven’t had raises — or have lost their jobs, he said.
“A recession is when your neighbor loses his job. Depression is when you lose yours.”