By Ray King

Pay raises for all Jefferson County employees are one step closer to happening after the Budget and Finance Committee of the Quorum Court voted Tuesday night.

By a vote of 10-3, the committee recommended an appropriation ordinance that provides for a four-percent salary hike for county employees, a five-percent increase for sheriff’s office certified deputies and an eight-percent increase for elected officials who serve four-year terms.

Justices of the Peace, whose terms are two years, will receive a three-percent increase and the county judge will receive a total of $6,000 annually to cover gas and maintenance for using her personal vehicle. That money would be taken away if the judge were to drive a county owned vehicle.

In a letter to Justice of the Peace Jimmy Fisher, chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee, County Judge Gerald Robinson said current state law sets a minimum and maximum salary for elected officials based on classifications and Jefferson County is classified as a Class 6 County with a population of more than 70,000. Elected officials in counties of that classification should receive a three-percent salary increase annually, something Robinson said has not been done since 2008.

The ordinance provides that the increases will be retroactive to Jan. 1.

Robinson and Sheriff Lafayette Woods Jr. would see their salaries increase from $75.555 annually to $81,599.40, a hike of $6,044.40. The salaries of the County Clerk, Circuit Clerk, Assessor, Tax Collector and Treasurer would increase from $69,260 to $74.800.80 and the salary of the coroner would go from $60,000 to $64,800.

The per-diem increase for each of the county’s 13 justices of the peace would increase by $311.20 to $10,684.48 annually.

Justice of the Peace Alfred Carroll was among those who voted no, explaining that county employees who had the lowest salaries would benefit less with a percentage increase and calling for the implementation of a salary schedule.

The county’s legislative body will vote on the recommended salary increases when they meet Monday at 5:30 p.m.

Also slated for raises are dispatchers with MECA (Metropolitan Emergency Communications Association) who will receive a $3,000 annual increase. That figure was approved by the MECA board during a meeting in early February. MECA personnel other than dispatchers will get a four-percent increase.

Money for the raises will come solely from additional money MECA will receive as a result of an increase in cellular telephone revenues.