The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance

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County Council, September 8

Employees to get a 2% COLA in October
New Noise ordinance

Warwick Jones

It was mostly “bread and butter” items on the agenda for yesterday’s Finance Committee meeting. And in a sense, this was particularly true for County employees. The Committee approved a 2% cost of living adjustment (COLA) in wages and salaries for all employees. However the remuneration of Council members remained unaltered.

Not all members of Council voted for the increase. Council members Schweers and Qualey were surprised that after the difficult 2012 budget deliberations, $2 million could be found so quickly to fund the increase. They also claimed that staff provided insufficient information to explain how the funds became available. Staff told the Committee that revenues were presently flowing higher than anticipated and at levels that would allow the 2% increase. However, the higher revenue flow would not justify a larger increase.

Council member Qualey wanted more information before voting for the increase. Council member Schweers was more conservative and reminded the Committee of the difficulties of taxpayers in the weak economy. Perhaps the extra funds should be directed to tax relief. He also noted that some staff had enjoyed “longevity” raises. These amounted to 3% after being employed for one, three, five, seven and 10 years. Thereafter, the raises were 5% after every five years.

Council member Rawl and Summey who supported the increase noted that there had been no COLA for 2 years. In that period, employees were required to pay more of the cost of their health insurance. This increase amounted to an average of $100 a month for each employee or about $1200 a year. So in a sense, the increase did not make the change in employees’ remuneration “whole”.

The 2% increase, assuming Council approves it, will be effective beginning October. The cost for fiscal 2012 will be about $2.2 million, and about $2.9 million for a full year.

The County is having another crack at its noise ordinance, though this time around, it is incorporated in a Livability Ordinance. The new ordinance better defiNes regulation relating to keeping domestic animals and fowl. As staff noted, the original noise ordinance passed in 1993 had archaic words and descriptions such as its opening “ All clamorous crying of wares, singing whooping, obstreperous, wanton and unnecessary noises either in the day time or at night which disturb the peace and quiet of the county “ etc. The difficulty of applying the ordinance prompted the creation of another in 2000 but it too was hard to enforce, largely because it was too sophisticated, relying on precise measurements of sound levels. Staff also noted that it was unclear whether the latter ordinance replaced or supplemented the original.

The new ordinance, encouraged specifically by Council members Rawl and Condon in a way stands between the two previous ordinances. But more importantly, it places more initiative on individuals and their right to seek court action for remedy. The new ordinance replaces the existing ordinances.

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