CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kanawha County commissioners approved the first across-the-board pay raise for county employees in six years on Thursday night.
Although some merit raises were given in 2008, and a few elected officials have juggled their budgets to give some raises over the past couple of years, county employees have not had a raise that covered all of them since 2006.
At the meeting Thursday, Commissioners Kent Carper, Dave Hardy and Hoppy Shores voted unanimously to give a $1,000 raise to each county employee effective Sept. 1. The raises will cost the county about $531,000.
Hardy said the cost of living in West Virginia has gone up by almost 5.7 percent since 2008, while utilities have gone up a staggering 67.45 percent. "Today, you'd need $1.06 to buy what you could buy for $1 in 2008," Hardy said.
Commissioners discussed whether to give an across-the-board raise or base the raise on percentages. County officials calculated the cost of a 2 percent raise at $449,000, a 2.5 percent raise at $561,000 and a 3 percent raise at $673,000.
While a raise based on percentages would give more money to employees with higher salaries, an across-the-board raise would constitute a bigger increase for employees with lower incomes.
Shores said he wasn't worried about employees who were near the top of the pay scale. He said he favored an across-the-board raise to give more money to lower-earning employees who probably need the money more.
Hardy and Carper agreed, quickly voting on what could have been a drawn-out argument over how the raises should be handled. Under state law, elected officials have the discretion to dole out the raises in any manner they see fit.
Also Thursday, commissioners saved the town of Pratt from at least one looming lawsuit. Jeff Fleck, executive director of the West Virginia Consolidated Public Retirement Board, said the retirement board was prepared to sue the town today for failing to pay more than $36,000 in overdue retirement contributions for employees of the Pratt water plant.
The money includes about $4,000 deducted from employees' paychecks, but never submitted to the state.