Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story said that Commissioner Charles Riley suggested a 4% raise for department heads and a 2% raise for other employees. Riley's chief of staff clarified the corrected rate the commissioner was suggesting.

Raises for county employees were one of the talking points on the first day of budget workshops at the Montgomery County Commissioners Court on July 27.

County budget officer Amanda Carter outlined raises as one of the four priorities that commissioners needed to tackle in the fiscal year 2021-22 budget, alongside other departmental requests, capital needs and maintaining a no-new-revenue tax rate.

Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack came out in favor of a 5% raise across the board, referring to Montgomery County’s raises of 1.9% in the past three years. He said in comparison surrounding counties and employers, including the city of Conroe, had offered competitive raises from 3%-5%.

“This past three years, our employees have been asked to do a Herculean effort of just doing their jobs,” Noack said.

However, County Judge Mark Keough said he was doubtful of the decision to award raises immediately, questioning what the county would have to give up for a 5% raise.

“Our greatest asset are our citizens, and our citizens have taken it on the chin,” Keough said. “I’m not anti-raise, but to decide that we’re going to come up with a percent right now before we’ve looked at each of our areas ... I don’t think we should do that.”

According to Carter, a 5% raise across the board would equate to more than $7 million in the budget. Carter also said that department heads told her office their priority was getting increased salaries for their people.

Precinct 2 Commissioner Charlie Riley suggested a 4% raise across the board and up to a 2.5% incentive for employees who are not department heads or elected officials. Carter said an incentive option could be difficult, as performance evaluations are "encouraged" but not required, and that merit plans would have many exceptions.

Commissioners did not make a final decision on the item on the first day of workshops. The Commissioners Court is scheduled to hear about personnel requests from departments July 28, the second day of workshops.

Montgomery County budget workshops are scheduled to continue until July 29 with the possibility of an extra session July 30. A final date for the budget vote has not been decided yet. Sessions can be streamed from the county website.