Claremore Daily Progress

October 17, 2013

Thacker, Helm approve county employee raises

Salesha Wilken
Staff Reporter

CLAREMORE —

The Rogers County commissioners voted Wednesday to approve the 2013-14 budget, including raises for some county employees. 
Approximately 40 county employees, working in the Rogers County Jail, were excluded from the measure.
Excess tax funding from the courthouse construction sales tax collections and excise tax will be used to pay approximately $550,000 in pay increases.
The board passed the measure by a 2 to 1 vote, with commissioners Kirt Thacker and Mike Helm supporting the motion and Dan DeLozier opposing it.
Employee raises will be retroactive to July 1, according to County Clerk Robin Anderson.
Employees receive county paid health insurance and state retirement benefits and a benefit package, including three weeks of personal leave and a minimum of three weeks vacation.
Those benefits were increased last year in lieu of pay increases; although, several employees received both, despite the board’s decision to forgo pay increases across the board.
All Rogers County elected officials, including the commissioners,  will receive a raise, according to Thacker.
Though, it is uncertain whether the commissioners can legally approve a raise for themselves.
Assistant District Attorney David Iski advised the board Tuesday that state law prohibits elected officials from voting in a raise for their current term.
However, Thacker said, “the item was under advisement,” Wednesday after the meeting reconvened from an overnight recess. 
Forty county employees working in the jail governed by the Rogers County Jail Trust Authority and commissioners were excluded because the trust is a “separate entity,” according to Thacker.
A vote of the jail trust authority and the commissioners would be required to allocate funding to provide jail employees with a pay increase. The jail trust authority finalized their annual budget in July, which did not include funding for employee raises.
Thacker previously supported a pay increase for all employees and Helm made a motion to include all the employees in the current cost-of-living effort.
Helm’s motion died for lack of a second.
Thacker’s motion passed after a lengthy discussion.
The pay increases were supported, despite approximately $1 million in cuts to One-Cent and T-Highway accounts.
The cuts to road and bridge maintenance were a result of an effort to balance the general fund budget.
The commissioners voted to lower county barn employee benefit costs in the general fund to lower the burden on all county departments. 
The board cut their budget then took the excise sales tax funding to give money back to the employees. 
In addition to the administrative cuts, Rogers County voters supported the One-Cent Sales Tax renewal in August allocating 1/8 of a cent from the sales tax to the pay down the $32.5 million debt resulting from the Material Services lawsuit. Overall impact is the county balanced the $20 million budget by cutting road funding and using excess sales tax allocated to pay the courthouse bond debt to increase employee pay.
The Rogers County Excise Board will meet at 1 p.m. Monday to discuss the final budget.