Jefferson County Commissioner Joe Knight displayed a more relaxed countenance Thursday when it became clear the 2022 Jefferson County budget would be balanced and approved.
“Since about the middle of July, it’s been one thing after another,” said Knight, who chairs the commission’s finance and budget committees. “The best part of my year is going to be Monday when me and my wife take off for a week.”
The $882,750,611 budget, passed unanimously by the commission, includes a 3% across-the-board raise for county employees. That accounted for an additional $3.3 million to the payroll.
“Then you add $1.7 million of merit raises in that next year,” Knight said. “That moves that starting point up $5 million. But the projection of the revenue is there, so we want to take advantage of that and give our employees a little something that they haven’t had in a while.”
Knight said he researched records back to 2008 and saw cost-of-living adjustments (COLASs) had been as high as 2½% and a few times 2%.
“But there was half that time was zero, we couldn’t do COLAs,” he said. “This year, we know that the employees have been through a lot. We want to continue to keep our employees engaged and happy. I wish we could have done more.”
Employees also get the benefit of an additional holiday. In committee, commissioners talked about making that new holiday Columbus Day. However, during the commission meeting about an hour later, Commissioner Lashunda Scales asked that the new holiday be Juneteenth, saying that selection would demonstrate more diversity and inclusion, and commissioners agreed.
Knight said he tried to produce a conservative budget because “as COVID has taught us, you never know what’s going to be happening down the road.”
Before ending the meeting, Commission President Jimmie Stephens recalled darker days of county finance when nearly 1,000 employees were laid off.
“I want you to understand, please, that … the economy is cyclical,” he said. “When [revenue] drops, there are going to be some tough choices to make. We need to remain fiscally responsible to establish our surpluses. They will help us carry us through.
“I have no intention – and I’ll repeat that – I have no intention to go through what we did in 2010, ’11, ’12 and ’13. And we will do everything as a commission to make sure that that we don’t.”
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