December 13, 2012

Bonus vote an insult to taxpayers

The men and women who work for Whitfield County government work hard, and they  deliver important services to county residents. So do tens of thousands of people in the private sector across the county. But unlike the vast majority of those private sector workers, some county workers will be getting bonuses this year, bonuses paid for by their peers in the private sector.

The Board of Commissioners voted 4-0 on Monday to approve $282,455 so that department heads can OK one-time discretionary bonuses of up to $2,000 based on performance. That money, which will come out of the general fund, will be divided by departments based on the number of employees.

Each full-time county employee is eligible for a bonus, but an information sheet passed out by commissioners says the award “is truly discretionary and should not be expected by any employee.” The sheet says department heads are to award the bonuses based on “an employee’s performance, attendance, job difficulty, individual liability, inherent physical danger” and other criteria.

Commissioners noted that county workers haven’t had a pay increase in four years, though some did get some of more than $300,000 in longevity bonuses last year.

Well, if commissioners ask around we are sure they’ll find that most of those private sector workers, the ones who pay the county’s bills, haven’t had a pay increase in at least four years either. Almost a quarter of the county’s jobs have disappeared since 2007, victims of the recession and downturn. And those fortunate to have jobs have seen their hours and pay cut. They’d probably like a bonus, too, but we doubt that many of them are getting one.

What they did get was a $2.5 million property tax increase this year, thanks to the commissioners, and talk of another property tax increase next year.

Many voters believe commissioners haven’t cut spending as much as they can. And when commissioners vote to hand out more than a quarter million in bonuses just a couple of months after raising taxes, it does seem that they have more money than they need.

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