The leave and pay combined would give Jackson County employees an increase of 2.5 percent relative to the time they spend on duty. The raises would cost the county $250,000 in salaries and benefits.
“I think we need to do what we can to try and keep our employees from getting farther behind the cost of living,” Wooten said. “There has only been one across-the-board cost of living increase for all employees since FY 08-09.”
In the current 2013-14 budget, all employees received a 2 percent raise, and in 2012-13, all employees making less than $40,000 per year were given a one-time increase of $650. The proposal for this year, Wooten said, would make county wages consistent with the 2013 Consumer Price Index.
Not every county in the region is doing the same. Macon County has no plans to offer a cost-of-living increase this year, and Swain County Commissioners won’t discuss the subject until their budget workshops begin May 12.
Haywood County, meanwhile, is taking the middle road. Though commissioners haven’t approved an across-the-board increase for four years, they have offered merit raises for the last five and could well do so again this year. Merit raises are given based on employee evaluations and capped at 2 percent, with enough money in the pot for each of the 500 county employees to receive a 2 percent raise, if their supervisor decides to award it. So, an employee with a very high evaluation might receive a 2 percent merit raise, while an employee with a slightly lower score might get a 0.5, 1 or 1.5 percent raise.