Waynesville employees will likely see a 3 percent raise in their paycheck next year, if budget suggestions proffered by the town manager are approved by aldermen.
The proposed budget for 2011-12, released last week, calls for an across-the-board, cost-of-living pay raise for all town employees — the first raise for town workers in three years.
On the whole, the town seems to be on fairly solid financial footing was the message given to town board members by Town Manager Lee Galloway, suggesting that a brighter fiscal picture might yet be on the not-so-distant horizon.
The pay raise is a nod to the reality that prices on necessities are rising, while employees are still making their 2009 salaries.
“It’s just evident with prices increasing, that I knew that our employees needed some additional compensation,” said Galloway. “So that was our driving force. I felt like that was our no. 1 priority, to try to provide our employees with a little extra.”
Since public-sector finances began to tank in 2009, the town has lost eight positions, though they were all vacant, so no layoffs were needed. This year’s budget suggests cutting another one-and-a-half positions, also currently vacant. And among the important unknowns is the state of the state budget.
Galloway said that, though the town’s finances look decent, there’s no telling what could come out of the General Assembly, where the financial situation couldn’t look less decent.
“Thus far, they haven’t shown any inclination to taking the revenues from local governments or handing down unfunded mandates,” said Galloway, which are the two measures that could level an unexpected punch at the town. “But I just don’t know how they’re going to do it without just reducing the level of services provided by the state.”
But regardless of what directives come down from Raleigh, Galloway said he’s behind a pay raise, especially given their firmer footing compared to the last two years.
“All of our funds — general, water, sewer and electric — are in stronger cash position than they were two years ago,” Galloway told aldermen at a budget workshop last week, which allows for leeway in giving a little boost to employees.
And Waynesville, in that sense, is an anomaly among its close neighbors, who aren’t yet able to pony up raises like they were pre-recession.
Just up Main Street at the historic court house, things aren’t nearly as rosy for the Haywood County commissioners. County Manager Marty Stamey laid out their proposed budget on Monday, which calls for reinstating the Christmas bonus, which has been just a memory for the last three years.
Other than that, county employees are eligible for a merit-based raise of up to one percent, but cost-of-living raises have for now become an anachronism, which concerned some commissioners.
“Everywhere you [go], gas is higher, corn is up, everything that you need to survive is going up. Maybe you can buy a piece of property cheaper, but you can’t eat and take care of your family,” said Commissioner Kirk Kirkpatrick. “That’s difficult and I’m concerned about that cost of living.”
But with state cuts and education needs rising, the county just won’t have the wiggle room for employee raises.
Galloway, who is spending his 18th and final year as town manager, said he believes their good fortune is down to good management by his staff and a boon from extra money, like the electricity fund.
And while this may not be the time for financial celebration, cautious optimism, he said, may not be out of order. So what better way to reward employees who pushed through the monetary valley, if the mountaintop might be coming into view.
Local government raises, bonuses at a glance
• Haywood County: In the past two years, employees were eligible for a merit-based raises up to 1-percent, but no across-the-board cost of living increase. The same is proposed this year.
• Jackson County: No raise in past two years. Nothing proposed this year. (However a pay study resulted in salary adjustments, including some quite large increases for top employees.)
• Macon County: No raise in past two years. A 3-percent increase is proposed this year.
• Swain County: No raise in past two years. Nothing proposed this year.
• Canton: Last year, a flat raise of $500. The same is proposed this year.
• Franklin: No raise two years ago. Last year employees got a one-time 3-percent bonus. An actual 4-percent increase is proposed this year.
• Maggie Valley: For the past two years, employees were eligible for a merit-based raise of up to 2 percent. A 2 percent cost-of-living raise is proposed this year.
• Sylva: Last year, employees received a 1.5 percent cost-of-living increase. This year, town leaders are considering giving those making less than $50,000 a year a flat raise rather than a percentage of their salary.