Confehr: A pay cut by another name could smell much worse

Monday, August 31, 2009

More than a couple hundred county employees working from offices in Lewisburg are to suffer a reduction in pay as a result of a sour economy.

Cutting hours is clearly one way to reduce spending on the biggest part of any budget, be it government or private enterprise. County commissioners on the budget committee this month asked department leaders to cut two hours from their employees' work week. Some had already been scheduled for less than 40 hours.

There have been some reactions.

One is that some departments' employees will continue to work more than 40 hours a week to get the job done, regardless of whether their work week is 38 or 40 hours on the payroll books. Some of those county officials are actually the leaders of departments with only a couple or three employees. Sometimes it's more than the salaried department leader who works more than only so many hours a week.

Another reaction - and we've already reported this - is that it's better to shave a few hours off everybody's work week so nobody is laid off.

It's like the historic tale of the French Huguenots. Persecuted for their religion, they fled without enough boats, so they took turns hanging off the side of the boats. That way, their boats wouldn't sink. All shared the burden of some time in the water. It was to benefit all.

There's also been the view that a property tax rate hike might cost an average homeowner $10, or less a year. But county employees who are paid $12 an hour would have to accept an annual pay cut of $1,248, or 4.9 percent of a $24,960 annual income. The new income would be $23,712. The figures are theoretical. The hourly rate was selected at random. Some county employees are paid about that much.

And then there's the view that the requested reduction in work hours - the pay cut - is in retaliation for employees' reaction to the health insurance dilemma.

Some county residents complain their elected leaders haven't made wise financial decisions and that the budget wouldn't be so tight if there were better leaders.

Well, there's an election in less than a year. Some folks complain when county employees are in elected office, but those who are there were elected and some could be re-elected without trouble.

There are probably other views of the attempt to reduce spending.

There are probably more county residents who've been affected more by the recession.