It’ll be a happy holiday season for Berkeley County employees, who are not only getting three days off but also a bonus check. Last month, County Council decided to add Dec. 26 to Dec. 24 and 25 as holidays.

On Monday, members voted unanimously to give permanent full- and part-time employees a “one-time distribution” equal to 3 percent of their pay. They received a standing ovation from the audience, most of whom left after the vote.

Interns, temporary employees and employees who receive state-mandated cost-of-living increases could receive an amount based on a different formula.

The pay is technically not a bonus because it is not tied to employee performance or extra work, Supervisor Dan Davis said. Council also voted to exclude all elected officials from the payout. Last year, council gave smaller bonuses and excluded only themselves and Davis. County employees have not received raises since a 1.5 percent adjustment in July 2010, said Deputy County Supervisor Kace L. Smith.

A county compensation study that has been in the works for about five years has come to an impasse, said Human Resources Director Leonitta Turner, who requested the disbursement. The delay has hurt morale and increased employee turnover, she said. The county has nearly 600 employees who make less than $40,000 per year, she said.

Councilman Jack Schurlknight, chairman of the Finance Committee, said he heard recently that some county employees rely on food assistance. “That is very alarming to me,” he said. “They are receiving food stamps to feed their family, and I think that is a crying shame.”

The disbursement will cost the county about $1 million, which will come from its fund balance and money that was set aside for pay adjustments expected as a result of the compensation study. “This 3 percent recommendation really rises out of the fact that we have not been able to keep up with the cost of living over the last several years (and) the fact that we just simply were not able to do the compensation study to the level that we needed to,” Davis said.

In other news, council had planned to pass a resolution honoring outgoing Councilman Bob Call, but the item was pulled from the agenda at Call’s request, Davis said. He said it will be rescheduled.

Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or