Bedford County Salary Board passes worker scholarship resolution | News, Sports, Jobs

BEDFORD – The Bedford County Salary Board and Board of Commissioners passed a resolution that will provide a one-time cost of living adjustment scholarship of $ 1,500 to eligible full-time and $ 750 to eligible permanent part-time employees at a special meeting held Wednesday morning.

The resolution was passed in the hopes of improving recruitment and entertainment of employees.

Bedford County employs a little over 200 people, and 17 of those positions are currently vacant, Human Resources Director Joy Lepako said.

“The Bedford County government is experiencing a significant problem in recruiting and retaining qualified employees,” the resolution document read.

Positions with the most vacancies include correction officers, children and youth service caseworkers, probation officers and 911 telecommunicators, according to the resolution.

The labor market in the region reflects a shortage of applicants to fill critical vacancies, the document read, and numerous employees are leaving county positions for “Significantly higher paying jobs.”

Further compounding the problem is that county workers are experiencing “Severe financial concerns due to hyperinflation, spending over $ 300 a month more on basic needs than a year ago” and that the average salary of a county worker is less than the average county per-capita personal income, the resolution said.

Elected officials, those who make more than $ 61,700 a year, casual part-time and temporary part-time employees will be excluded from receiving the scholarship, Lepako said.

“If you’ve been employed for over a year, you will receive (the scholarship) now,” she said. “If you are already employed, you will receive it on your one-year anniversary.”

Anyone hired through the end of 2022 will also be eligible for the scholarship, Lepako said, which can be paid into 2023.

The county currently has 142 full-time and 14 part-time employees who are eligible, but that number could fluctuate, she said.

That would be an estimated total of $ 223,500 paid out in the scholarship.

Commissioner Barry Dallara, Commissioner Alan Frederick and County Treasurer Melissa Cottle voted in favor of passing the resolution.

“I was happy to be able to help our own,” Cottle said. “We do a lot for other organizations in the county and I think it’s time to help our own employees during this difficult time.”

Commissioner Debra Baughman was the sole “No” vote, saying in a statement that while county employees are feeling the pinch of hyperinflation, she doesn’t believe the resolution “Solves the problem for employees or the employer and does not use precious taxpayer money effectively.”

“The lump sum payment may provide relief for a month or two, and will surely be appreciated, but it does nothing to ease financial stress as economic conditions potentially worsen later this year,” Baughman’s statement said.

In order to better help underpaid employees, Baughman said she proposed to the salary board that if financial relief is offered mid-year, it be added to employees’ base pay, “Providing a permanent boost that would continue to compound yearly.”

She said she would also assist the county with recruiting candidates for essential positions.

Cottle said she is also in favor of raising county employees’ wages, but that the 2022 budget has already been set.

“The commissioners had discussed it, with everything increasing, we know everyone’s wages aren’t where they want them to be,” Cottle said.

She said the county is looking to increase wages in the 2023 budget.

The effectiveness of the cost-of-living-adjustment scholarship will be evaluated until Dec. 31, the resolution stated, “To provide data to determine what compensation adjustments are needed in the 2023 budget.”

The resolution also stated that the COLA would not negatively impact the 2022 budget because of “Reduced salaries being expended in the 2022 budget due to staff shortages.”

Baughman disagreed, stating that with “Inflationary pressures on county costs for goods and services, the impact on the budget for the last six months of the year remains to be seen.”

She requested that the board wait to act on the resolution until further into the budget year to “Gauge any budget shortfalls,” but the board moved forward with a vote.

Baughman also disagreed with the assertion that the 2022 budget would not be negatively impacted by the COLA scholarship because of staff shortages and unfilled positions.

“It proposes using the savings from staff vacancies to fund the lump-sum scholarship, and at the same time, use the scholarship as a recruitment tool for those same positions which we are still trying to fill,” Baughman said in a statement. “Also, the savings are not as great as the proposed due to paying overtime for existing staff to do the work for those unfilled positions.”

She said that the resolution’s rationale also counts on receiving reimbursement from the state to help pay for the scholarship even though the state has not yet committed to the plan.

“Making this decision on iffy financial analysis doesn’t make sense to me,” Baughman said.

County Commissioners Barry Dallara and Alan Frederick could not be reached for comment.

Mirror Staff Writer Rachel Foor is at 814-946-7458.

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