Warren County EMS is requesting its Merry Christmas, a financial bonus.
The county Budget and Finance Committee met Thursday and considered a request by EMS director Preston Denney for a budget transfer that would provide bonuses to his employees mirroring that unanimously approved for Warren County School System employees in November.
“I would like to provide a $750 bonus to all of our full-time personnel and $375 for our active part-time personnel,” said Denney. “Only the active ones who have worked in the last month or so would receive a bonus.”
While the exact amount is unknown, said Denney, it would be less than $40,000 and those funds would come from the department’s current 2020-21 fiscal year budget.
The request received mixed responses.
“You’re doing a good job at keeping your department in good financial shape,” said Commissioner Tommy Savage. “If your department wasn’t, and one of the other departments was and they were going to get a bonus, how would your people feel?”
Denney responded, “They would still question why they couldn’t have one. This isn’t against any other department. Part of it comes back to the school system. This is the same bonus they gave and kind of the same structure that they used. The teachers were given that because of savings and due to COVID some money wasn’t used they originally had budgeted. That’s the same place we’re coming from in making this request.”
“If we do this for your department, it will open up a can of worms,” said Savage. “We’ll have to do it for all departments. That’s where I’m coming from.”
According to numbers presented by Finance Department director Justin Cotten, it would cost the county approximately $215,000 to provide that bonus to all employees, excluding those who received a salary increase in the 2020-21 fiscal year.
“I just want to make sure everything is fair,” said Commissioner Christy Ross, who suggested excluding those employees who received a salary increase. “These employees certainly deserve it. Everybody works hard. We have to take care of our county employees, but it also has to be fair.”
Commissioner Cole Taylor said he’s torn between not wanting to “open up a can of worms” with other departments but that most other departments were closed and those employees sent home with pay to protect them from COVID-19 exposure, while EMS employees had to continue working despite the threat to their safety.
Commissioner Scott Rubley suggested they wait a few more months.
“Right now, the numbers in the budget looks great only due to CARES Act money and governor’s money that came in and some savings we’ve incurred because of some shutdowns, but we have only completed one-quarter of our fiscal year,” said Rubley.
Budget and Finance Committee members unanimously voted to consider a bonus for county employees in April of 2021. The fiscal year ends June 30, 2021.
Budget and Finance Committee members also voted 3-2 against the budget transfer request made by Denney to provide his staff with a bonus. Commissioners Rubley, Savage and Taylor voted against it, while Commissioners Ross and Randy England voted in favor.
The measure will be sent to the full Warren County Commission for consideration.