Thursday, January 12, 2012

More about CMS raises

Interim Superintendent Hugh Hattabaugh says he'll pitch about half a dozen more "asks,"  or increased spending that requires extra county money,  to the school board in the coming weeks.  But the $25 million to $30 million he's seeking to give all employees a 3 percent raise is by far the big-ticket item.

Mecklenburg County commissioners' Chair Harold Cogdell said Wednesday it's too early to comment on the likelihood of CMS getting that sum.  It's big, he said, but he understands the need.

The county,  which has about 4,200 people on its payroll,  budgeted $10 million in the current year to give merit raises averaging 3 percent,  Cogdell said.

CMS,  which employs about 18,000,  hasn't had money for widespread raises since 2008-09 (individuals who changed duties or took part in merit-pay pilots have gotten bumps).  Hattabaugh and his staff are trying to convince the community that an across-the-board raise is overdue. See the video created by CMS staff here, and read the CMS budget presentation, which includes the case for raises starting on page 36, here.

Before the recession,  CMS followed the lead of state legislators,  who cover a big chunk of the CMS payroll.  If the state gave,  say , a 3 percent raise to teachers and others who are state employees,  CMS would match that for county-paid workers.

But with no money for raises in the state's 2012-13 plan  (approved last year as part of a two-year budget),  CMS hopes county commissioners will agree to pick up the part that would normally come from the state  --  about 71 percent of the $25 million-plus, the CMS budget office calculated Wednesday.  And that additional supplement to state-paid workers would become an ongoing annual expense from the county budget.

Cogdell says he's keeping an open mind,  but he wishes CMS had led with plans for cost savings and creative efficiencies.  "When the first thing you do is asking for more,"  he said,  " it does create some level of skepticism."

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