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February 21, 2013

$30K a year raise denied

Live Oak — A motion by one county commissioner that would have given the county administrator a $30,000 a year raise on top of his current $90,000 salary ended with the item being tabled until the next budget year. 


The item was not on the scheduled agenda for Tuesday night’s Suwannee County Commission meeting. It was brought to the board for a possible vote under additional items by commissioner Phil Oxendine.


The measure would have also extended County Administrator Randy Harris’ contract to five years.


“It’s time we addressed this,” said Oxendine. 


He said that because of all that Harris has done for the county, including overseeing projects at the catalyst site, was his reasoning for the motion. 


Oxendine said that Harris saves the county thousands of dollars already by also wearing the hat of public works director.


“When we hired Mr. Harris we addressed this, him doing two positions. He’s actually doing more than that. He’s saving us about $275,000 annually,” said Oxendine. “I believe that we can well afford the $30,000.”


However, commissioner Ricky Gamble was quick to point out that it was Harris that approached the board about doing the two jobs and agreed to his current salary when he was first hired – about eight months ago. 
“The board did not approach Mr. Harris about combining those two positions. That was his recommendation to the board,” said Gamble. “And the price (Harris’ current salary) was agreed upon at that time. The board was okay with it as well as Mr. Harris.”


Harris’ start date as county administrator was June 8, 2012. Prior to his current position, he worked as the county’s public works director. Harris was originally given $80,000 a year as a county administrator. Harris told the board he could handle both jobs and wanted to save taxpayer money by doing both. At that time his pay increased to $90,000.


Gamble said that it’s not the time to be doling out thirty grand to one employee when other employees in the county, some of which make less than the proposed raise, haven’t received a pay increase in years. 


“It’s a $30,000 a year increase and we haven’t given any employees a raise in how many years?” Gamble asked. “We’re spending multi million dollars on this project (Klausner sawmill) out there and you want to justify that for a $30,000 a year increase? I just don’t see it happening.”


Commissioner Jason Bashaw agreed. 


“I think the timing is not right for this,” said Bashaw.


Bashaw noted that employee morale has seemed to increase as of late and that giving a raise like this to their boss might jeopardize that. 


“Considering perhaps the next budget year would be better,” said Bashaw. “Introducing it mid-stream like this when we’re doing so many other things, we don’t need to do anything to affect what has been (increased) employee morale.”


Commissioners Wesley Wainwright and Clyde Fleming were in agreement with the raise and it looked as though a 3-2 vote was imminent. 


Oxendine then made a motion to accept the five year contract with the $30,000 a year raise. 


Fleming seconded, but before a vote could take place, Gamble had an amendment to that motion to give all employees on the county payroll a seven and a half percent raise on top of Harris’ raise. 


Bashaw seconded that motion. 


Wainwright said that Harris is deserving of the raise due to his “tenacity” to tackle and accomplish more as county administrator than the previous four county coordinators together. 


“Everybody doesn’t have those kinds of capabilities,” said Wainwright.


Oxendine said the money to give Harris the raise was in the current budget.


“It is in the budget, the money is there. I don’t see no reason why we shouldn’t compensate him for the job he’s done,” said Oxendine. 


Former county commissioner Ivie Fowler addressed the board and expressed his frustration that the public wasn’t made aware of the proposal earlier. 


“If y’all want to give him a raise, have the guts enough to put in on the agenda where people in the county can see what y’all are going to do,” said Fowler. “So people can come down here and voice their opinion. Don’t do it on a special agenda item. It doesn’t look good.”


The vote on the amendment to the original motion passed 3-2 with Wainwright and Oxendine voting against. Gamble then made a motion to table both issues until the next year’s budget discussions, seconded by Fleming, and passed 4-1 with Oxendine dissenting.

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