Butler County commissioners likely to approve 2% raises for 2021

The Butler County commissioners are leaning in favor of giving their employees a 2% pay hike next year as finances are looking better than predicted.

County Administrator Judi Boyko asked the commissioners to consider restoring the 2% raises for their employees despite the uncertainty of finances in the coronavirus pandemic, which would cost around $200,000.

The commissioners for several years have operated with a two-part performance pay formula that calls for pay hikes in the 1 to 3 percent range added to an employee’s base pay and another 1 to 3 percent available in lump sum payments.

The commissioners set a 2 percent pool of money from a given department’s total payroll for eligible, non-union employees for the base increases and an equal amount for the lump sum incentive bonuses.

“I think we’re in a consensus we’re going to retain our employees," said Commissioner Don Dixon. “We’ve made a commitment to them on that 2% before. I know there are different circumstances now, but not into that part where it seems to be a huge problem, where it seems to be any problem right now that we can’t do it.”

ExploreCommissioners debate their raises, bonuses program in Butler County

The commissioners have asked all offices, departments and independent boards that rely on the general fund to cut 7.4% over two years due to a projected drop in revenues from the coronavirus pandemic.

As a whole, the adopted and proposed general fund expenses are down about $12.3 million, or about 11.2%. The commissioners projected a $20 million general fund revenue tumble early in the pandemic, but through the first nine months of the year, actual revenue collections from all sources are down 7.6%, or $5.1 million.

“I am in favor, with the caveat that we do need to get that information from our finance director and take a look at the budget in whole," said Commissioner Cindy Carpenter. “And then at the end of the year take another look at where we are with regard to our revenue, just to do a double-check.”

The commissioners instituted the pay-for-performance plan to rein in past practices where some employees were receiving double-digit pay bumps and in some case multiple, compounded raises in a year. The commissioners have touted the pay plan as a key factor in how the county pulled itself off a fiscal cliff.

The commissioners approved raises for their employees this year in January. Employees who were at or above their pay range are only eligible for the lump sum portion of the incentive plan. The plan this year showed 20 of the 29 people who are topped out, received 4% lump sum awards.

Most of the rest of the employees received base increases of about 2%, and the same percentage for lump sum payments.

The other elected officials follow the commissioners' performance plan and most unions have also espoused it in some fashion. The sheriff;s department has six unions and new contracts were ratified last year that included 3 to 4% wage increases and annual step increases in the zero to 9.2% range.

The unions agreed to a new physical fitness provision and some other concessions in the new contracts. The commissioners consider a new physical fitness provision negotiated into the last FOP contract to be a form of merit pay.

Chief Deputy Anthony Dwyer said they have not asked the unions to renegotiate their raises for next year, but have saved “hundreds of thousands" of dollars on overtime costs.

“We don’t plan on speaking to the union about any concessions to contractually negotiated raises,” Dwyer said. “What we dealt with with unions this year was paid overtime. So if an officer got frozen and had to work over he either flexed his time off on a future day or had to submit for compensatory time or some other time as opposed to cash money.”