Clark County commissioners voted 2-1 on Wednesday to approve 2 percent raises for nearly 250 non-union employees.
Commissioners John Detrick and David Hartley supported giving raises to non-union employees, while Commissioner Rick Lohnes voted against the pay hike, saying he would have preferred discussion on employee bonuses.
Lohnes said the county budget can afford to absorb the cost of the raises now, but the county’s longer-term financial outlook is uncertain.
“A raise is a permanent thing. Most of the things in the budget are not so permanent. There are mandatory things, but most everything else we can undo. Raises are forever. We can’t take raises back,” Lohnes said.
The raises would be the third in as many years and could cost the county about $217,000.
Detrick and Lohnes, who will be up for re-election this year, are Republicans. Hartley is a Democrat.
The proposed overall 2014 county budget is about $162 million, and the 2014 general fund is currently at about $39.2 million, Administrator Nathan Kennedy said, adding that officials may approve the budget next week.
The county employs about 1,200 people, of which, about 240 are non-union employees.
Kennedy said all non-union employees still may not get raises as county department heads can decide whether to pass the funds along to their workers.
Employees received a 2 percent raise in 2012 and about a 40 cents per hour raise last year, but prior to that went without raises since 2008.
Kennedy said the county can afford the raises, and while no one can predict the future, he said based on interest rates and the advice of the county’s financial advisers, it’s reasonable that the county will be able to absorb the pay hike moving forward.
Detrick and Hartley said the county’s employees deserve to get raises.
“We aren’t extremely high paying. The least we can offer is good working benefits and good working conditions. We have been blessed under the leadership of Nathan Kennedy with good financial management, and I want to extend that on to our employees,” Detrick said.
Detrick said he would support the county establishing a bonus or an incentive plan in the future, but he said employees should be rewarded for their work now as they went without raises for three years prior to 2012.
“We’re just simply playing catch up to be somewhat competitive with the private sector,” Detrick said.
Hartley said he wants to reward county employees for their loyalty.
“I have the highest regard for our employees, and it is not my position to punish them. They’ve already been punished through the health insurance. We’re not talking about a whole lot of money here. We’re just trying to keep up, and we can’t even do that,” Hartley said.
“We’ve got some loyal employees who should be rewarded. Our employees deserve it. They stuck with us during the layoffs, the hard times and the attrition. And we’re doing more with less.”