Thursday, June 13, 2024

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Graham, NC 27253
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Scrooge – Part 2: how many raises are enough for public employees?


While we’re on the subject of disparities between government and the private sector, we also have to observe that another dimension of dissimilar treatment has to do with salaries – and, in particular, the government’s willingness to grant salary increases and bonuses one right after another.

This week, the county commissioners merrily handed out raises to about 477 employees within county government: sheriff’s detention officers; Department of Social Services (DSS) employees; and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) workers. (Commendations to fellow Scrooge commissioner Craig Turner, who at least wanted to explore whether a “more measured,” i.e., less expensive, approach might be warranted. He was voted down, 4-1.)

The cost of the raises, about $1.7 million, it must be remembered, is only for half of the fiscal year. The full tab for the commissioners’ generosity will come home to roost in the next budget.

And earlier this month, the Santa spirit was evident in Gibsonville where new aldermen led the charge for bonuses for all of that municipality’s employees ($1,000 for full-time, $500 for part-time); it was adopted unanimously. And by comparison, it was small potatoes in terms of a price tag: just $71,500.

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Meanwhile, Burlington’s free-spenders are looking to up the salaries for the city’s police officers by about $1.3 million; that vote is scheduled for January.

And we suspect these cases will only inspire other towns and cities to consider even more generous raises for their employees.

Part of this generosity is based on the mistaken notion that all of these can be financed with “free money from Washington,” i.e., the massive influx of ostensibly Covid-related funding that Congress has authorized and which is now flowing into local governments across the country.

Now, in each of these cases, we are quite sure that there are some very deserving employees.

We’ll certainly concede that the staffing challenges that have been identified – turnover, etc. – are, in all likelihood, real problems in some areas of government.

Of course, government’s answer to every problem is to spend more of the taxpayers’ money on it.

But where’s the limit?

We see billboards lining the interstate with private sector employers who cannot find enough workers for dozens of industries.

Locally, we see “help wanted” signs everywhere – from food service to large, big-box retail stores, and everything in between.

We see companies and organizations that have cut their hours – and/or are now closed entirely on certain days of the week – because they cannot find enough employees to run a full staff or a full shift.

There are convenience stores along the interstate that typically used to remain open 24 hours a day to serve the travelling public – and local customers, as well. Now many of them close by midnight due to staffing shortages.

So what are all of these companies and organizations to do in the face of government now offering more and more money to attract employees?

In essence, the government is trying to attract their employees.

And just by the way, when we hear all of the praise lavished on various public sector employees, we are reminded that not that long ago, many of them were able to stay home (ostensibly “to work remotely,” although we’re not at all sure they always did).

They kept their relatively high-paying jobs, full benefits, etc. in the midst of the Covid panemic.

Meanwhile, private companies were laying off their employees at the beginning and height of Covid. There was no better job security, then or now, than to have a government job.

Once again, it is a situation where the private sector simply cannot sustain funding at the level that government wants to spend.

We cannot all work for the government, although it sometimes seems, based on the scope of government expansion, that is, in fact, the ultimate objective.

So, at a minimum, we think a collective “Bah Humbug” might be appropriate from private sector employers and employees who don’t have government largesse to bank on.

Scrooge – Part 1: how many days off are enough at Christmas

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