County employee salary increases tackle ‘retention’ issues

CHEROKEE COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) – Cherokee County is increasing this year’s budget to pay its employees more money. Leaders say it’s to help stop workers from going to neighboring counties for a bigger paycheck.

“It’s going to really help with the morale of our officers overall,” said Sheriff Steve Mueller.

It’s a pay increase Cherokee County Sheriff Steve Mueller says is needed to help retain hard working people.

“Every division of county government, we’ve been a training ground. We hire new employees – invest time and energy in training those folks and after two or three years, less than five years, they simply walk away,” he said.

County leaders say employees often head to surrounding areas for a better paycheck.

“Spartanburg County is 20 miles in that direction, York County is 30 miles in that direction. They have a much larger tax base than we do,” said Cherokee County District 2 Councilman Mike Fowlkes. “Retention is probably the biggest part of what we’ve done here. Last year – eight months ago – we had six 9-1-1 dispatchers also receive certification and leave us in about a two week period.”

He says increases stopped during the recession and previous cost of living raises were not enough.

“The two or three percent was a positive step for the county employee but at the same time they were not gaining. They were actually still behind because of increases in retirement and healthcare,” he said.

In an effort to keep good workers within its borders county leaders approved an additional $900,000 for pay raises.

“Three percent cost of living and then there’s a longevity raise for the years of service for each employee,” said Fowlkes.

The money will come from the local option sales tax fund. It’s the main reason for a roughly one million dollar increase from last year’s budget but the sheriff says the longevity raise is especially important.

“Not only for law enforcement but our entire county government you have never been rewarded for your longevity so employees that were here for 10 years would make the exact same thing as an employee who started today,” Sheriff Mueller said.

Sheriff Mueller says for some of his senior deputies it could mean a roughly $6,000 increase in their salary. Council passed two readings of the budget with this pay increase. There needs to be a third vote to make it all finalized to go into effect July first.

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