2013-01-17 / Front Page

Some see raise denied

County decides not to convert bonus checks

MANISTIQUE – A raise requested in lieu of a recently approved performance payment was recently denied to non-union fulltime employees following a vote by the Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners. The commissioners had previously approved a $500 performance payment for the department heads in December of 2012.

During their recent meeting, Audit/Finance Chairperson Dan LaFoille, explained the Personnel Committee, consisting of himself and Board Chairperson Al Grimm, had heard a request from the employees.

“The request is to have the performance payment be a raise, rather than a performance payment,” he said. “The request is based on the fact that in 2011, they received no raise when everyone else did, and they would like to catch up.”

Commissioner Jerry Zellar pointed out that the non-union department heads are already higher paid than union employees, so they would not be catching up.

“They’re also lucky, because that $500, it was kind of hinged on the (union) contracts passing,” he added.

Grimm noted that the raise wouldn’t be about “luck”, but about being fair.

“The spirit of the intent was to have this little financial aid because costs are going to be going up in ’13,” said Grimm. “That was my idea to get money to everybody, somehow – a little bit – versus a one bit.”

Zellar asked Grimm is he would have approved the performance payments if the unions would not have passed their contracts, which included the same payment.

“Probably not,” Grimm answered.

According to LaFoille, the county generally follows suit with the union contracts, granting nonunion employees some of the same negotiated terms.

“In 2011, we were still under contract, but the non-union did not receive their raise for that year,” he explained. “That’s, I’m sure, a piece of why they’re asking for this now – to make that up.”

Grimm noted that he knew the department heads weren’t asking for much, but the financial state of the county and the rest of the nation now determine most decisions.

“It’s painful times to deny people; it’s happening all over the world, though … it’s happening in the state of Michigan,” he said. “People talk about they’re the lowest paid … they truly are, but that’s the nature of the place that we live in.”

Zellar added that if the county wanted to be fair and grant the request, they would have to also go back and grant the same raise to the unions. He then made the motion to deny the request, which was seconded by Grimm. The motion passed unanimously.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, the county’s tax equalization director, Paul Wood, addressed the board’s decision to deny the raise – which he would have received.

“If you look at the way the raise was done in 2011, it was $500, but the union did nothing for the department heads,” he said. “So they got that $500, and they got it again this year.”

He noted with the $500 built into the union’s contract in 2011 and the $500 built in to the 2012 contract, non-union department heads were $1,000 behind the unions.

According to County Clerk Dan McKinney, the unions received a 30 cent an hour raise in 2011.

Zellar noted in some previous years, department heads received double the raise of the union and non-union employees, which would actually still put them ahead of the union employees.

“That was done by design to try to balance things out,” Wood said. “Sooner or later, you have to balance it out or everybody’s making the same thing.”

Commissioners took no further action on the issue.

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