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County Council, May 18

Above average pay increase for public safety employees
Assessor’s Office looking for a new home
Warwick Jones

Issue over pay for public safety employees took up much of yesterday’s meeting. It was raised by Council member Darby and followed the presentation at the last Finance Committee meeting relating to general pay increases for County employees. These pay increases would cost $5.7 million a year and become effective halfway through the next fiscal year. They are expected to bring remuneration to levels close to those in other municipalities in the region

It seems those working in the public safety departments would enjoy a much larger increase than those in other departments. Council members asked why. Councilmembers Rawl and Schweers seemed the most concerned. Didn’t Council some three years or so ago make a study and reclassify positions, creating a matrix to facilitate equitable across-the-board pay increases. Implied was that if this system worked, the adjustments for specific categories should not be necessary.

Staff told Council that after the study was undertaken, the Sheriff’s office lost a number of officers, lured away by higher remuneration at other municipalities. Consequently, it was evident that the pay scale in Charleston County was too low.

Both Council members Rawl and Schweers were concerned about the possibility of playing catch-up. Council member Rawl indicated that he wanted to have the appropriate pay scale but he did not want to participate in a competition with other municipalities. He was also concerned about the impact on staff morale in other departments.

Staff indicated that the proposals in the presentation had been incorporated in the FY2018 budget. The increase would be effective beginning half way through the year. There would be no proposed millage increase in FY2018 or in FY2019 when the brunt of the full proposed salary increases would be felt.

The Finance Committee will discuss the FY 2018 budget in a special session on Tuesday.

Other items discusses were;

  • The purchase of 4.9 acres adjoining the Azalea Drive complex for $1.18 million. The complex owned by the County, encompasses 23 acres and the addition will facilitate expansion and improved efficiency. The Committee was unanimous in approval.

  • Renting 18,167 sq. ft. of space at the Citadel Mall to relocate the Assessors Office. The office utilizes 13,700 sq. ft. in downtown Charleston but this space is insufficient to house all staff. The rent in the Mall is $436,000 a year and escalates over the 5 year option period by 3% a year. The Committee thought there may be better alternatives such as buying a property. The issues was deferred until the next Committee meeting where more information on available properties and alternatives will be discussed.

  • Endorsing the move by the City of Charleston to implement a 6 month moratorium on new dwelling construction on James Island. The proposal to discuss the issue will wait for the County Attorney to decide the legal way to proceed – Does the Council introduce an ordinance to mimic that of the City, or must it hold public hearings and a hearing by the Planning Commission?

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