Financial Management Committee discusses wage scales, retirement

Carter County commissioners on the Financial Management Committee gathered for their July meeting Monday morning to continue conversations on the possible implementation of a wage scale system for county employees.

Commissioner Brad Johnson said their current step is to get the initial facts, figures and method sorted out so they can present an educated plan to the full commission.

“In this system here, if we have one officeholder who objects, it is the end of it right there,” Johnson said. “That is how critical this is.”

The Financial Management Committee has been working on proposing a possible wage scale system for the past few meetings, and though many commissioners are on board with the prospect, the method of implementing and maintaining such a system has proven an obstacle.

“I do not think any elected officials are opposed to a pay scale,” County Sheriff Dexter Lunceford said. “There has to be insurance it is going to be funded with new monies.”

The committee discussed the need to determine for how long an employee would be eligible for wage increases over time, including the cut-off time after a certain number of years and even the frequency of step increases.

Committee members pointed to an example system of a 10-step wage system.

Lunceford said his steps currently sit at about 4 percent each step, with 10 steps in total over a 12-year period.

A consequence of this kind of system, they said, was the larger population of tenure employees and possibly fewer younger employees on payroll, which could present its own difficulties.

“If I had a 10 percent pay increase, […] they will continue to reach those higher pay scales,” Lunceford said.

They said this would present a unique problem in the case of first-responders like the sheriff’s office and the fire department, where younger employees are typically more favored because they are better suited to working out in the field.

In additional conversation, the committee continued discussion on possible revisions or replacements of the county’s 457 retirement plan.

Finance Director Brad Burke said leaving Nationwide would either require eating over $20,000 in fees to withdraw everything at once or taking yearly checks from Nationwide for the next five years until everything was out of the program in order to avoid those fees.

The committee voted unanimously to temporarily keep Nationwide open in addition to pursuing the state-sponsored retirement plan at the same time, citing more options for individual employees. If the employee wishes to eat the individual cost for completely withdrawing from Nationwide, they can do so.

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