With only two Mobile County Commissioners voting in favor of the 2014 Fiscal Year Budget Sept. 23, the employees will still receive the same money they do now, but can see costs increase in health insurance.
Commissioners Merceria Ludgood and Connie Hudson approved the budget while Commissioner Jerry Carl said he couldn’t support the budget as is.
“I just can’t,” Carl said when the vote for the budget needed a second. Ludgood, however, provided the needed second vote and the budget was put in place.
Part of the reason Carl didn’t support the budget was he called for much greater raises and subsistence pay for county employees than the other two commissioners. He also provided more cuts, which were not included in the budget.
Under the adopted budget, county employees will keep the subsistence pay at $10 for every day worked.
A subsistence allowance was created in the 1980s, following a lawsuit by law enforcement officers. The allowance currently gives employees $5 for every day the person works an eight-hour shift. The money is paid to offset expenses the employee incurs during a workday.
The allowance is not taxed and does not count toward retirement pay, but it typically is better for people who are on the lower end of the pay spectrum said Mobile County Finance Director Michelle Herman.
However, several county employees pointed out that the some are being cut by the subsistence allowance.
While some county employees have a five-day work week with eight-hour days, there are several people who work four-day work weeks with 10-hour days.
Although the employees work the same amount of time — 40 hours — the two employees receive different subsistence allowances. The employee who works five days will receive $50 per week and the employee who works four days will receive $40. In a course of a year, this amounts to a difference of $520.
The county officials said the difference would be corrected through the county’s software. However, the issue was raised again when several county employees spoke to the commissioners.
The discrepancy between the two groups of employees had not been settled and would cost the county more money that had not been budgeted, Herman said.
This was the first of three issues Carl addressed during the commission meeting.
“We told the employees this would be fixed through the software and it isn’t,” he said. “This should be fair for everyone.”
The cost for total inclusion would add another $500,000 to the county’s cost.
Carl quickly found money to provide for the raise, but Hudson and Ludgood were not supportive.
During the budget discussions, Carl suggested cutting the education fund. Each commissioner is given $300,000 each to then allocate among the schools within their district. Carl said he would give his $300,000 to support the employees’ allowance. At first, Hudson also agreed, but said she wanted to think on the issue more after Ludgood spoke in favor of keeping the $300,000.
“I have the most schools in my district and the poorest,” Ludgood said. “Some people may not use all of their money, but I use all of mine. The schools in my district need this to operate at the same level as the more affluent schools.”
Carl, who was elected in November 2012, has never had the $300,000 to spend because then-Commissioner Mike Dean spent all of the money allotted to the District 3 County Commission.
On top of making the subsistence allowance the same across the board, Carl also stated earlier he would like the subsistence allowance to be $15 per day worked. However, Hudson said she wouldn’t support the recommendation with “phantom money,” but would consider it if more funds become available.
The last issue Carl addressed were to several more cuts to the budget such as to the education fund and cutting the custodial fund by decreasing the times Government Plaza is cleaned.
Herman said she included the recommending cuts that had the majority of the commission’s support.
Hudson, Herman and Ludgood all said the budget is “amendable” and if there were any more revenue or funds available than originally thought, then the first consideration given would be toward employee pay raises.
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