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Saturday, October 1, 2022

County Employees Speak at Special Budget Meeting

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County employees were invited to be in attendance at the special budget committee meeting held at the Scott County Courthouse on Friday evening, December 11 at 6 p.m. Concerns over the elimination of employee bonuses dominated that meeting.

Four county employees addressed Committee Chairman Larry “Bear” Brigance, and the remaining members: John Luttrell, Bob Hattabaugh, Bill Bates, Linda Vaughn, Tom Wagner, Tommy Roberson, and Donald Hill. Scott Thompson was absent.

Jamie Goff, a dispatcher at the Scott County Detention Center, asked committee members what had changed in this year’s budget to prevent bonuses from being given. “I, like a lot of my co-workers, depend on this money to buy big ticket items like tires for our vehicles…We’re all supporting families, and are all on a budget. At Christmastime we’ve got to really squeeze to get in those hours.” Goff went on to add that a question had been posed, “would I prefer a bonus, or a $1 per hour raise? …The $1 per hour raise was just to offset the state mandated raise that we would be getting in January...Also, our elected officials get a three percent raise each year…” Goff went on to express concerns over hazard pay while working during the pandemic. “Crime never stops, we aren’t numbers on a budget, we are people…We’ve compared other counties…We are averaging $5-10,000 less per year doing the same job. If we don’t change this now, nobody is going to want to work for Scott County. It’s really disheartening.”

The answer to Goff’s initial question came a short time later when she again inquired what had changed in the budget. The committee chairman responded, “the mandated increase in the minimum wage.”

Deputy Clint McPherson spoke next regarding the passage of Arkansas Issue 5, the Minimum Wage Initiative, which passed in 2018. McPherson went on to state that the $1 increase to be in effect at the first of year was not a raise. “I’ve heard it called a raise. That statement is disingenuous in nature….This increase will not have the impact on people’s pocketbook that you may believe. When we go to buy bread and milk, clothes for our kids, or pay any one for any service, our costs will go up accordingly and we’re no more above the poverty line than we were before. McPherson asked for a change in the way employees are viewed and valued. “My son told me a few months back that he was interested in doing what I do. I tried to explain to him that he didn’t want to do that. And, not because the job is dangerous or because it’s not an honorable profession. I told him that he would have an extremely difficult time raising a family…on what we are paid.”

McPherson concluded that the county’s low pay is the reason it’s been dubbed a “training ground…People come here, they get some experience and then leave to go to other departments who pay a reasonable amount.” Also, that the county’s insurance is “practically unattainable for anyone other than a single individual” and is “not the gold standard you believe it to be…The cost of insuring ones family, and still being able to provide with what’s left is practically impossible.”

Health insurance doesn’t pay the mortgage and does not put food on the table. -Clint McPherson

Last to speak, Amy Kastl, a jailer at the Scott County Detention Center. Kastl spoke on behalf of herself and other jailers and dispatchers, reading statements from her co-workers. Kastl shared the high stress and pressures associated with their line of work. She spoke about the “lack of incentives,” and that the bonus “at least let us know we could provide a decent Christmas for our families….I hear a lot about how great the benefits are…but the only time I tried to take advantage and get a bad tooth taken care of, I was denied. So the way I see it, we may not be able to buy food this week, but at least we can get our teeth cleaned.”

Brigance then responded. “We are all here because of lack of revenue…I appreciate each and every one of you. If I could, I would give you all a bonus…I wanna give you a $10 raise, but I can’t. I am limited on what I can do.” In short, Brigance explained that the anticipated revenue for next year, based on what was spent this year, puts the county overbudget. Brigance added that over $100,000 in budget cuts have already been made. “It was not an easy decision for us to make those cuts,” added Vaughn. “We get so much revenue, we budget so much,” concluded Brigance. “This is based on numbers, and numbers only. No sentiment whatsoever…it’s a simple concept.”

Judge Forbes added a comment regarding hazard pay, and funds from the CARES Act. “It’s been tentatively approved by the first committee, it has two more committees to go through…as soon as it goes through, I will get with the Quorum Court.”

Forbes recommended that a committee, comprised of county employees, be formed at the first of the year to examine the pay scale and to formulate solutions.

The motion was made by Vaughn to vote on the issue of employee bonuses. Voting against: Brigance, Luttrell, Hattabaugh, Bates, Vaughn, Roberson, and Hill. Voting for: Wagner, stating “I’ve never voted against any kind of raise or a bonus, and I won’t tonight.”

With no other items of business, the special meeting of the budget committee adjourned at 6:59 p.m.

-County Government Salary Schedule-

Scott County Deputy Clint McPherson
Jamie Goff, a dispatcher at the Scott County Detention Center
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Tammy Teague
Tammy is the heart behind the brand. Her tenacity to curate authentic journalism, supported by a genuine heart is one her many wholesome qualities.
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1 COMMENT

  1. If all county employees walked off the job, then maybe they would be appreciated a little more. It all boils down to a sheer lack of appreciation.