County OKs employee bonus

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By Lou Elliott Jones, Editor

County workers — full, part-time and oncall — who save their department or the county money will be eligible for a bonus under a plan adopted Wednesday morning in a special meeting by the Levy County Commission.

The commission, which first discussed the idea of giving a $600 one-time payment to full-time county workers at its Oct. 16 meeting, found that state law prohibits giving workers a bonus without going through a process of setting standards for earning and evaluating the awarding of bonuses.

The law also said the one-time payments must be made available to all employees, which meant part-time and on-call workers were to be added to the proposal first made by Commissioner Ryan Bell of Chiefland (R-District 5). "I know it caught some of the commissioners by surprisem" he said, citing state Sunshine Law restrictions on commissioners discussing business outside a public meeting 

It was Commissioner Marsha Drew of Yankeetown (R-District 3) who wanted to bring that last point home. "For the record it was Commissioner Bell who proposed it." Drew, who in the past has not supported any pay increases or bonus for employees was in support of Bell's proposal.

The final vote on the policy and to include the payments in regular paychecks was 5-0.

Under the plan, full-time employees are eligible for a $600 award, part-time for $300 and on-call for $150. The payment would be made in employee's regular paychecks. That decision came after Payroll Cklerk Ann Moody told the commission that the IRS levy's a 25 percent income tax on a bonus paid in a separate check. She also said it would cut her work in half if the second check were not done. 

Commissioner Mike Joyner of Morriston (R-District 1) said if the commission went with a second check he would like to see the amount raised to cover the 25 percent income tax.

Levy County Property Appraiser Oz Barker commended the commission for the work it has done in the past two years cutting the budget, and said the bonus would not have been possible without that work. 

"I'm glad to see we're at the point that we are today," Barker said, noting that he is a fiscal conservative and that his department with nine full -time employees had cut its budget by about 30 percent in the past two years. "Everybody has cut and cut and cut. I'm proud of this board."

And he had a suggestion that he said would make county workers happy: "I think you should go a step farther and entertain giving more. I want you to consider going to $1,000 for our full time employees."

But the board did not take him up on the idea. Commissioner Chad Johnson of Chiefland (R-District 2) said going to $1,000 for full time workers would increase the county's tab from about $252,000 to about $400,000. He said it would be wrong after all the pain and agony the county went through with the budget and the resulting property tax millage and increase in the fire and EMS assessments. 

He said county workers did need a raise because they are doing more work with fewer bodies. The board has been under a hiring freeze for two years, and not replacing workers who retire or leave except when it affects a department's functions. 

The policy outlines the criteria for the performance award for employees who:

• come up with ideas, procedures or policies that result in significant savings for their department or the county, or

• implement an idea, process, procedure or policy or other action that results in savings for their department or the county, or

• provides highly effective assistance above and beyond the call of duty that results in savings to their department or the county.

County Coordinator Fred Moody said he had been incontact with the two unions representing some county workewrs and they were amenable to the idea of the one-time payment.

The only hitch in the process may come in getting the paperwork in to get the payment in time for checks cut on Nov. 21. The commission has set a Dec. 7 deadline for paperwork to be in to the county coordinator in order to assure the payment will be made by the last check before Christmas. 

But if department heads move more quickly and finish the evaluations earlier, the checks can go out earlier.