County Workers' Deserved Raise CARROLL COUNTY

March 11, 1993

Surely, more than a few Carroll taxpayers will complain about the raises just granted to county employees. But they shouldn't carp too loudly: Any good private-sector employer wouldn't wait three years to give his or her workers a raise.

Municipal employees, like lawyers, used car salesmen and, alas, journalists, don't rate particularly high in public esteem. Nonetheless, public employees perform important functions, including clearing roads, operating landfills, issuing building permits as well as planning for the county's future.

Unlike some of its larger metropolitan area neighbors or the state, Carroll has never had a reputation for bloated government. Its work force executes the public's business with skill and efficiency, and should be compensated fairly.

In addition, a number of these employees have had to take on extra duties due to the attrition in the county ranks. The employees deserve some sort of recognition for the extra work they did during this period of austerity.

County government is competing with other employers for good people. For the past three years, the regional economy was weak, and other local governments and businesses were not hiring. Now that the economy is beginning to recover, Carroll has to wonder whether its pay levels -- particularly at the entry levels -- are competitive.

The $500 across-the-board raise is a start. It is more equitable than a percentage increase, which would have meant that most of the money would have gone to higher-paid employees. An $80,000 saving in the health insurance for the county, which is self-insured, is financing the raise so there wasn't much to distribute to the 506 employees.

But this raise is not going to resolve some other underlying problems with the county compensation system. A disparity exists between the county and Board of Education pay schedules. During the years that county employees received no raises, education employees were getting some step and longevity increases. The unequal treatment caused tension between the two classes of workers.

This raise will help rectify some of the disparity, but the commissioners should devote some time and study to ensure that in future periods of budgetary austerity, the burden is equally distributed among all public employees.

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