The Switzerland County Council met for its regular monthly meeting on Wednesday, November 14th, and tops on the agenda was the consideration and ultimate approval of the county’s salary ordinance for the coming year.
Those members of the County Council present at the meeting included: Elizabeth Jones, Lisa Fisher, Mike Bear, Andy Haskell, Glenn Scott, Rachel Schuler, and John Gary Welch; as well as auditor Gayle Rayles.
The 2019 Salary Ordinance, as presented, included a three-percent pay increase for employees.
There was a discussion regarding taking the Switzerland County Animal Shelter employees back to 34 hours, in line with other county employees. Council President Jones reminded everyone that the council’s job is to allocate the money to cover the salaries — the Commissioners set the hours. The allocated funds for the shelter employees pay could be reduced, but the commissioners could elect not to cut their hours if they felt the job wasn’t able to be done in 34 hours a week.
The two employees of the animal shelter were present at the council meeting to answer any questions; and the following topics were covered:
• Question: Do they actually work 40 hours per week?
Answer: Yes. The shelter is not open 40 hours a week but the animals have to be fed and the cages cleaned every day regardless if they are open. The employees take turns covering holidays.
• Question: Could their work get done if they work 34 hours a week?
Answer: It would depend on the number of animals at the shelter and the number of outside calls they have.
• Question: If they went to 34 hours a week, like other employees, could they get their comp time in?
Answer: It would be difficult due to the fact that they may be taking comp time when an emergency comes in and they have to take a run because the other employee is busy.
• Question: How many calls do they take a month?
Answer: Approximately 15 to 20 calls in the last two months.
• Question: Most runs are covered by both employees. Is that necessary?
Answer: It depends on the type of run. Often both employees are needed.
• Question: Could the money the shelter receives from the two grants be used to defray any of the cost at the shelter to reduce their budget?
Answer: Those funds are used for special projects. Recently they were used to cover the cost of new heating and air conditioning systems and kennel doors.
Councilman Scott read the minutes from the meeting where the shelter hours were changed from 34 to 40 hours per week. He said he didn’t see how, if it didn’t work then, 34 hours would work now. Welch expressed concern that they would not be able to get their jobs done.
Fisher made a motion that the appropriation for the animal shelter salaries be based on 34 hours with the three-percent pay increase in 2019. Bear seconded the motion.
During discussion on the motion, Schuler asked for verification that they work 40 hours a week. Scott said he was opposed to the motion because he felt it was just a way to cut a salary. Fisher said she felt the financially responsible thing to do is to scale back, and this was a step in that direction. Schuler asked if there was another place $10,000 could be cut from the animal shelter budget. President Jones then called for the vote. Voting in favor of the motion was Fisher and Bear; while Jones, Scott, Schuler, Welch, and Haskell voted against it, so the motion failed.
Jones advised the animal shelter employees that the council would like detailed reports next year that show the number of runs, after-hour and weekend emergency calls and the number of animals at the shelter. Although the council cannot set the number of hours they work, they can request detailed reports so they can make informed decisions in the future.
Scott then made a motion to approve the 2019 Salary Ordinance with the three-percent increases. Welch seconded the motion, and the vote was five in favor, with Bear opposed. Bear noted that he was in favor of a two-percent increase. The motion passed.
The 2018 health insurance cost increase was also discussed.
Auditor Rayles provided the numbers for the insurance premium increases for 2018 that the council covered and the projected premium increases for 2019. She said that, if the employees are asked to cover the difference between 2017 and 2019, the net change in an employee’s monthly pay in 2019 after raises, for those with family coverage, would be approximately $27.36. If the county continues to pay the premium increase for 2018, the net monthly increase for those employees would be approximately $54.66.
Scott made a motion to pass along the 2018 and 2019 premium increases to the employees; Fisher seconded the motion, and all agreed.
The Council also discussed the casino revenue percentage for 2019.
Rayles provided council with the current structure for how the Casino Revenue the county receives is distributed. Council will review the information and discuss the 2019 distributions at their next meeting. Rayles asked that, if possible, no cuts be made to the amount Emergency Response receives. They have been able to operate very well with the amount they are currently receiving without asking council for additional funds.