County Council votes 'no' on rescinding surcharge

By Tom Lehman 12:34am, January 23, 2013
Councilman George Smiley and Council President Chris Bullock discuss the defeated ordinance
County Council votes against rescinding a healthcare surcharge on its own employees.

The ordinance in question, which was defeated in a 10-3 decision, would have rescinded a 2.5 percent surcharge on unclassified, non-union council employees through the rest of the current fiscal year. The surcharge, which has been in effect for two years and expires at the end of this fiscal year, applies to all county employees.

Councilman George Smiley, who sponsored the measure and is co-chairman of the Finance committee, says the intention of the ordinance was to help council employees who were dealing with an increased cost of living.

"I felt they were deserving of it, others said they were deserving of it too, but it should be done as a whole," Smiley says.

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However, he says council did not have the authority to rescind the surcharge for all county workers, many of whom are working under union-negotiated contracts that aren't defined under uniform terms. He says action to affect their pay, and for those in the executive branch, must come from the county executive or union representatives.

"It wasn't enacted as a whole. Each union contract came before us separately and implemented whatever they had agreed to achieve 2.5 percent," Smiley says.

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For that reason, some council members voted against the measure, including Council President Chris Bullock, who says the timing of the ordinance was problematic.

"It was an issue of fairness and equity and we hope to revisit it in

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2014," he says.

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He expects the issue to be brought back up once budget discussions begin to develop later this year.

"We just believe that if we can give everyone what they're worth then we should do it, but the bottom line is the issue of timing," he says.

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The ordinance's fiscal note says it would have cost the county an additional healthcare expense of $12,966.59 if it had been passed.

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