Most Charleston County employees will receive a $1,000 check by the end of the week as a one-time cost-of-living adjustment.
County Council approved the plan Tuesday as part of a mid-year budget review with a 6-3 vote. About 2,500 employees will benefit from the plan, which will cost about $2.5 million.
Council members in favor of the plan said cost-of-living increases were overdue, while opponents questioned whether it represented an appropriate use of tax dollars and the process by which it came to council.
County Finance Director Keith Bustraan said he’s hopeful that employees will receive their checks Friday.
Council members Colleen Condon, Henry Darby, Anna Johnson, Teddie Pryor, Vic Rawl and Elliott Summey voted in favor of the plan. Joe Qualey, Herb Sass and Dickie Schweers were opposed.
Mitch Lucas, the county’s assistant sheriff, said during the public comment session that the one-time payments are important for county employees, whose paychecks have taken hits over the past few years. For instance, Lucas said, since 2010, employees have had to pay $51 per pay period for a portion of their health insurance premiums.
That effectively represents a big cut in pay, especially for employees on the lower end of the salary scale. “It’s crushing for some employees,” Lucas said.
He also said that he had asked some other employees to come to the meeting to address council, but those employees wouldn’t do it because they were afraid of retribution.
James Island resident Dave Coe spoke against the salary supplements, which he referred to as bonuses. County employees already are well paid, he said. “And the insurance benefits alone are worth their weight in gold.” County Council should think about doing more for senior citizens and the needy before giving employees $1,000 checks to compensate them for cost-of-living increases, Coe said.
Condon said she voted in favor of the plan because increased insurance rates and inflation represented “a cost-of-living decrease” for employees. A cost-of-living adjustment was long overdue, she said.
Sass said he voted against it because he was opposed to the process by which it came to council. He wasn’t aware the county had $2.5 million available, he said. He thinks council should have been presented with options for what to do with the available tax dollars. Those options could have included the salary supplements for employees, he said.
County Administrator Kurt Taylor has said the one-time cost-of-living adjustment came as part of the county’s mid-fiscal year budget review, and after no across-the-board cost-of-living increases were given to staff this year.
He also said the money is not a choice of putting employees over taxpayers but that the one-time checks are part of ensuring high employee morale when prices are going up everywhere, including for food, gas and housing.
Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491