Stone Co. Explores Pay Raises For Employees

By Danielle Thomas - bio | email

STONE COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Some Stone County supervisors say they are certain that dozens of county employees are overdue for a pay raise. What the board isn't so sure about, is whether the county can afford it. Supervisors say they have yet to nail down a total figure for the 2008-2009 budget. So while they want to increase salaries, they're not ready to make any promises.

Employees of the Stone County Road Department patch hundreds of miles of roads. They also keep grass and trees along the shoulders and right-of-ways neatly cut and trimmed. County supervisors say hiring isn't a problem for the Road Department, but keeping workers is a problem.

"You start off at $8 an hour, or $7.50. Then you turn around and train people. They can turn around and go out in the field on other jobs and make $12-15 an hour," said District three Supervisor Lance Pearson.

There are roughly 150 people on the Stone County payroll. Supervisors say they can understand why so many workers leave for higher pay.

"I know that our county workers are hurting, because I know that they don't make a lot of money," said District one Supervisor Clark Byrd. "Gas is going up so high and that's making everything else go up, like your groceries and all. We want to do anything that we can to help them out. "

One reason county supervisors can't say right now whether or not they'll be able to give raises is because of rising expenses, especially insurance and fuel.

"The previous board had budgeted $125,000. And as of last month in June, we were over $160,000 in fuel costs," said Pearson. "We've still got three months left in this budget year."

Supervisors say of the 30 departments that make up Stone County government, all 30 are asking for pay raises this year.

Pearson said, "I really believe that they do need a pay increase. If it's at all possible, this board, I believe, would love to give it them."

A grant has been paying the salaries of two Stone County Sheriff's deputies, but that runs out this year. County supervisors say the county will have to either eliminate the positions or pick up the cost, which is between $60,0000 and $80,000.