County nixes pay raises

William Thompson

The Quay County budget was finalized July 12 and no pay raises for county employees were included in the budget. According to the minutes of a special budget session on June 4, former County Manager Paula Chacon, acting as a consultant, reported to county commissioners that no pay raises would be forthcoming.

“The recap was reviewed and did not include any raises and no room for the county to pay a larger percentage of the health care insurance because revenues were down 2 percent, expenditures were up 3 percent and transfers from the General Fund were up 25 percent.”

Quay County Clerk Jeannette Maddaford said county commissioners looked at the possibility of a 3 percent raise and a 5 percent pay raise for county employees.

“A 3 percent and a 5 percent raise were proposed but the final budget did not allow either possibility,” said Maddaford. “I think the county commissioners were disappointed. They were trying to work in pay raises.”

Chacon said even though the budget is finalized, county management could still revisit the pay raise issue if more revenues come along.

“If more revenues could be found, a resolution could be introduced to offer a pay raise,” said Chacon, “I believe there is still a possibility. I know the county commissioners really wanted to give a pay raise.”

Chacon did not wish to say how strong the possibility was of revisiting the pay raise issue this year.

Kenny Crowe recently resigned as a Quay County Deputy Sheriff. He said his pay worked out to $10.42 an hour and it wasn’t enough to support his family.

“When I was hired in May, Sheriff Jack Huntley told me he was pushing for a 20% pay raise for the sheriff’s department,” said Crowe. “It’s not Sheriff Huntley’s fault that the pay raise didn’t happen. He tried really hard. It is just impossible to support my family on $10.42 an hour.

Crowe said Quay County deputies are underpaid compared to other sheriff’s deputies in New Mexico.

“Other departments pay their deputies $4 or $5 more an hour than Quay County pays,” said Crowe. “I strongly urge all county commissioners to reconsider what they are doing. All county workers work really hard and deserve a pay raise.”

County Commissioner Jeff Lewalling said the county’s decision to nix the pay raise boiled down to simple economics.

“We simply didn’t have the money,” said Lewalling. “We can still revisit the issue later in the year. If a new wind farm project on the Wheatland Caprock comes through later in the year then we might be able to look at the pay raise issue again.”

Lewalling said he is not unsympathetic to county employees who feel the economic impact of a budget with no pay raise.
“I want more than anybody for county employees to have a decent living wage, but if the money is not there, it’s just not there. Quay County operates on a budget of less than 2 million dollars.”

A county employee earning a base annual salary of $18,000 would earn $500 more per year with a 3 percent raise and $900 more per year with a 5 percent raise.

County Manager Terry Turner said he will not give up on looking for a way to give raises.

“My role is to increase revenues and decrease expenditures. I’m not abandoning the pay raise issue for this year,” said Turner. “I believe that if we take care of our county employees our employees will take care of our county.”

Turner said that being relatively new to the job, he acted as an observer during the budget negotiations.

“I was somewhat of an observer. It all boiled down to the fact that revenues were down and expenditures were up,” said Turner. “It cost the county in excess of $200,000 to handle solid waste. We’re working on getting that privatized.”