Nearly $1 million in raises for county employees was approved by the Dawson County Board of Commissioners during its March 2 voting session.
As a result of a recently completed salary study, the commission voted to adopt a new pay plan option that will include giving all employees a 2 percent raise, bringing all current employee salaries up to minimum and give employees credit for years of service.
The 2 percent raise is a Cost of Living Adjustment, or COLA. Bringing all current employee salaries up to the minimum for their job classification will make sure that no one is being underpaid for the work they are doing in comparison to surrounding counties, and employees will have an opportunity to earn more the longer they work for the county.
District 2 Commissioner Chris Gaines made a motion to approve the option that will consist of $937,227 in raises. District 3 Commissioner Jimmy Hamby seconded the motion and it was approved unanimously.
The number does not include the addition of benefits, which could push the cost to the county over $1 million. The new pay plan will be implemented April 8.
"I appreciate all the work by all the staff, and the work the commissioners put into this," said Commission Chair Billy Thurmond. "I want to tell the employees out there how diligent you've been and all the work that you've done for Dawson County. We do appreciate and recognize that you are the greatest asset we have."
When the results of the salary study were first presented to the board Feb. 9, County Clerk Danielle Yarbrough announced that Dawson County government has seen a massive turnover since 2011, with a 109 percent loss of employees.
Salary Analyst Chip King of the Archer Company, which conducted the 2016-2017 study, called the 109 percent turnover rate "unheard of" and "unprecedented."
According to Yarbrough, the county lost 475 employees out of 434 positions between Jan. 1, 2011 and when the study was presented in February.
That means 475 people left for better opportunities, were let go or resigned during that time. It does not mean that no one who works at the county now was there in 2011, or that everyone who worked at the county in 2011 is not there now.
Some positions retained the same person through all of that time, while others turned over multiple times. Positions could also have been eliminated altogether, leading to fewer positions now than there were in 2011. Some people have changed departments or positions while still remaining employed at the county.
For example, the county manager position has seen five paid employees since 2011, while the county clerk position has turned over once, as Yarbrough has been employed as clerk since January 2012. Yarbrough herself however has served at the county for 18 years.
Some departments are also more susceptible to turnover, like the sheriff's office, which was also included in the calculation and saw a number of employees resign due to new administration, as well as more competitive pay elsewhere, according to officials.
The county lost 84 employees out of 434 last year, making the yearly turnover 19 percent.
Twenty-four of those were from the sheriff's office.
The numbers, however calculated, indicate that the county has issues with retaining quality employees, which is costing them big time.
The county has, according to Commission Chair Billy Thurmond, spent $1.5 million in recruitment and retraining over the last six years due to the large turnover. The commission approved the raises as a step towards increasing retention while the county continues to feel pressure from larger, more populous surrounding counties.
In other news:
Development authority training funds approved
The board approved providing the Development Authority of Dawson County with the funds to train four newly appointed members as well as three who were already on the board.
The amount will come out of the county's budget for training, and will not exceed $2,600.
Hamby motioned to approve the funds and Gaines seconded the motion. It was approved 3-1 with Nix dissenting.
Transfer station fees increase
After a second and final hearing on Public Works Director David McKee's proposal to increase fees at the Dawson County Transfer Station, the new rates were approved unanimously by the commission.
McKee proposed the fees increase after an assessment of surrounding transfer stations found Dawson County fees lagging behind.
Trash by the bag is still $0.50, but there is a new 10-bag limit per customer.
Trash weighed by the ton is $44 a ton as opposed to $35 a ton previously. There is also a new restriction of a $5 minimum payment on trash that is weighed.