Supervisors OK one-time payments for employees

In a 4-1 vote last week, the Board of Supervisors approved using part of a roughly $28 million surplus from fiscal 2010 for one-time payments to qualifying county employees.

The bulk of the surplus, $10.3 million on the county side and $9.5 million on the schools side, was set aside for future use. About $4.75 million will fund the one-time payments, and $3.25 million will go to one-time capital expenses and projects. Another $150,000 was set aside to eliminate the $5 youth sports fee in fiscal 2012 and $100,000 will go to community groups.

At the board’s Oct. 27 meeting, several supervisors asked that the matter be deferred to the Nov. 17 meeting so they could receive public input and consider the issue.

“All of that time allowed for us to clarify some things for folks who had questions,” Allan Carmody, the county’s budget and management director, said last week.

If approved, the one-time, performance-based payments would be tied to employees’ “satisfactory” performance of their duties, he said. Employees who have been with the county for less than one year will not be eligible for the payments, he said.

Bermuda Supervisor Dorothy Jaeckle asked what “satisfactory” meant in this context. Carmody said the county’s performance evaluations have five levels and the highest three levels would formance. The proposal did not provide for bigger payments for employees with higher performance ratings, he said.

“I don’t really agree with that, quite frankly,” Jaeckle said.

Clover Hill Supervisor Art Warren said the deferral “gave us a chance to listen.” He received numerous e-mails and phone calls from residents, and they seemed to favor the performance-based payments.

“I can support this proposal as presented by our staff,” he said.

Jaeckle said she’s not opposed to giving an increase to the employees, “but I think it’s incumbent upon us to differentiate between satisfactory and excellent.”

“I think the public has this idea that public employees  just bump along, and no matter how hard they work they all get the same raise and they all are kept forever,” she said. “And I’d really like to dispel that myth, because anyone here sees how hard our employees do work and I think they’re entitled to being rewarded accordingly.”

Supervisors Chairman Dan Gecker said the vast majority of the surplus was being set aside to cover future expenses.

“You have to take seriously the people who say, I think, correctly, this is all tax payer money, and why don’t you rebate it to us now,” he said. But, setting aside the money for future use is a kind of rebate, as it helps prevent tax and fee increases in the future, he said.

“The savings that we’re talking about here are substantially generated by the reduction in force prior to the beginning of this fiscal year,” he said. From a management standpoint, it seems appropriate to provide the one-time payments for employees, he said.

The supervisors voted 4-1, with Jaeckle in dissent, to approve the plans for the surplus.

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