Haywood County employees given first dibs on new money in budget

During budget discussions earlier this year, Haywood County commissioners were adamant about their commitment to give county employees a boost after three years of no raises and frozen retirement contributions.

Commissioners stayed true to their word, based on a proposed budget released this week. The county will partially restore a 401K match, contributing 1 percent of employees’ salaries. The county won’t be giving across the board cost-of-living raises, but will give merit raises to some staff of up to 2 percent. The 401K match for some 500 county employees will cost $195,000.

This will be accomplished without raising taxes. The county’s budget has modest natural growth in revenue of $1.3 million — thanks to construction that’s added to the property tax base and an uptick in consumer buying, which means more sales tax.

The total overall budget is nearly $66.6 million. It is still down by more than $1 million compared to 2007-08, meaning the economy is slowly bouncing back but still is shy of pre-recession numbers.

The 1 percent 401K contribution is a far cry from the 5.5 percent match the county did during the 2008 fiscal year. When the economy went sour, it temporarily stopped contributions to save money.

“We are trying to phase it back,” Stamey said.

Something new this year is a one-time extra bonus for law enforcement officials. Officers will receive a bonus check, equivalent to one percent of their salary, on the anniversary of their hire date. The total cost will be about $38,000.

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