Town employees to get a COLA raise and doubled Christmas bonuses

When commissioners finalized the FY ’20-’21 budget in July, the annual Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) raise usually given to town employees was temporarily nixed.

Due to the pandemic, commissioners didn’t know if citizens would be able to pay their utilities or if anticipated sales tax revenues would decrease. Therefore, they agreed to reassess the situation later in the year with amending of the ’20-’21 budget a possibility.

That time has come.

At the October Town Board meeting, Town Manager Josh Ward had good news for town employees. The COLA raise will be reinstated starting January 2021.

“Revenue and sales tax are up and homes are being sold, so the financial picture is better than it was in July,” he said. “Sales tax proceeds were strong beginning in July and August; utilities are being paid; overall our numbers are up.”

So, effective Jan. 1, 2021, commissioners voted unanimously to give town employees a three percent COLA raise.

In addition, Ward suggested upgrading the town’s Christmas bonus policy.

Currently, the annual Christmas Bonus for full-time employees is based on longevity: less than one year: $200; between one year and 10 years: $250; between 10 and 20 years: $300; 20+ years: $350

That would cost the town a total of $18,900. 

Ward suggested an option that several surrounding governmental agencies use – that of providing 1% of an employee’s salary as a bonus.

If the town did that, it would cost $33,204.97 or $14,304.97 more than the current bonus expenditure.

Commissioners weren’t keen on that idea due to inequities in the scenario.

“Someone here for two years at a high salary would get more than someone here for 15 years at a lower salary,” said Commissioner Amy Patterson.

At Commissioner John Dotson’s suggestion, doubling the current plan would cost the town about the same as the “percentage” scenario but would be fairer.

Commissioners voted unanimously to double annual Christmas bonuses which are based on longevity instead of salary percentage. It will cost the town almost the same as the percentage scenario.

So for Christmas 2020, full-time employees employed less than one year: $400; between one year and 10 years: $500; between 10 and 20 years: $600; 20+ years: $750.

Part-time employees will get a $50 gift card.

By Kim Lewicki, Highlands Newspaper

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