The county is facing a $10 million-$15 million reduction in revenue for next fiscal year, and commissioners said from both a financial and ideological standpoint, approving pay raises during a pandemic is not good business.
But county personnel who have come before the commissioners in recent court sessions have pleaded their employees are overworked and understaffed. In some cases, departments already have the funds necessary to support the additional pay or staff and simply need court approval to use the funds, officials said.
At the June 9 Commissioners Court meeting, Dodi Shaw, the county’s director of human resources, told commissioners she has received 75 requests for pay raises or promotions across county departments for FY 2020-21. Of these, 13 are pay increases for employees without any promotions, and eight are newly requested positions.
“We’ve been a little bit inundated with requests for new hires and upgrades,” Shaw said.
At least 14 departments have submitted budget requests for the next budget session in July, and Shaw said her department is still in the process of gathering these requests. Three departments—the county attorney’s office, risk management office and the clerk’s office—have the funding necessary to take care of the upgrades they are requesting, she said.
In the prior Commissioners Court meeting May 26, Shaw approached commissioners to communicate some of these requests. Commissioners told Shaw that they would likely not approve any pay raises or new positions for FY 2020-21, but she could return to the next court with an update on the requests if she desired.
Because Shaw simply presented an update June 9 and not an actionable item, no action was taken, but it did cause discussion among commissioners.
The largest push against the requests seemed to come from Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack.
“Why do we want them to come up here if it’s going to be 'no'?," Noack said June 9. “Unless they have a compelling story, I’d rather not hear it.”
In a May 12 meeting, Noack had also been vocal about not approving pay changes to several personnel from various county departments, arguing that “the timing was terrible.”
Director of Community Development Joanne Ducharme, who asked commissioners to consider and approve a pay increase of $6,885 for her employee, questioned Noack’s logic at the May 12 meeting. Ducharme said she has been advocating for this request for eight months because the employee has been taking on increasingly more responsibilities, yet her requests for an increase in pay have continuously been deferred.
She added the funding source is community development entitlement funds and does not impact the county budget.
“The funds for her pay increase have just been sitting in our budget for eight months now just waiting for this vote,” Ducharme said. “They’re not going anywhere; they can’t go anywhere.”
Noack said it was bad time to give out raises given the economic state in Montgomery County due to the coronavirus, and his vote would be consistent for any requests across the board.
“With all due respect, that statement makes about as much sense to me in this context as when my mother used to tell me to clean my plate because there were starving children in Africa,” Ducharme responded. “These funds do not impact the current unemployment rate in Montgomery County.”
Commissioners ultimately voted to deny Ducharme’s request.