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Mecklenburg County, school staff get bonuses / December 15, 2010
After some initial hesitation, the Mecklenburg County Board of Supervisors Monday night approved in year-end bonuses for employees of both the county and the school division.

Full-time county employees each will receive $750; part-timers will get $200.

County administrator Wayne Carter said county employee bonuses would be paid with found money, including revenue from the 2008 tax sale, workers compensation savings and personnel cost savings due to unfilled vacancies in several departments.

County employees will receive a total of $160,800.

Bonuses for school division staff will be funded separately using federal stimulus dollars approved by Congress in August. The supervisors’ action comes on the heels of School Board approval of the one-time bonuses last month.

Approval of the school employee bonuses — $1,000 for professional staff, $500 for non-professionals — comes one week after the supervisors’ finance committee voted to table the request from the school administration. At the time, supervisors indicated that they might hold over the stimulus dollars until the next fiscal year, when members felt the money might be needed to stem possible layoffs.

Instead, the board agreed Monday to approve the school bonuses, and it extended the Christmas giving to county staff as well.

Carter said the state is giving holiday bonuses to its employees and he thought it would be appropriate to give similar bonuses to county employees.

Supervisor Bill Blalock voted no, stating that he had previously voted against a resolution to appropriate the $701,898 in federal stimulus funds as a one-time bonus for school personnel. The bonus money for school employees is part of a windfall from the Education Jobs Fund. An additional $448,000 will be carried over to next year’s budget

Blalock had more company in voting against the bonuses for school employees. Joining him in voting against the bonuses were Dan Tanner, Orell Lenhart, and Jim Jennings. Voting for school employee bonuses were Glanzy Spain, Claudia Lundy, Gregg Gordon, Glenn Barbour and W.P. Hudgins Sr.

The finance committee had approved both measures earlier in the evening. The initial decision to table the school bonuses proposal came at an unannounced Dec. 2 finance committee meeting. The meeting was held without advance notice in violation of state open meeting laws.

Bonuses for county employees, a proposal originally on the agenda for that meeting, was removed from the Dec. 2 agenda.

In other financial matters, the committee and the full board on Monday approved the appropriation of grant money for three businesses that announced they would locate in Mecklenburg County. They are:

n $150,000 in Tobacco Region Opportunity Funds for Regitex;

n $390,000 from TROF and $150,000 from the Governor’s Opportunity Fund for Home Care Industries;

n a total of $6.9 million for Microsoft, which includes $4.8 million from TROF and $2.1 million from the Governor’s Opportunity Fund.

During the finance committee meeting, chairman Gregg Gordon asked members to start listing projects to be included in a capital improvement plan.

Carter said that several remodeling and construction projects would be proposed as a result of offices moving into new facilities when the courthouse renovations have been competed.

Another project for the capital improvement plan would be a water tank the county is building in conjunction with the Route 92 water line extension to Chase City, he said.

He said the supervisors need to look at what additional projects should be planned for the next 10 years so that they can be budgeted for and scheduled.

Staff can then begin looking for funding, he said.

Glenn Barbour, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, said the capital plan should include not just new construction but projects that need to be undertaken to maintain existing infrastructure.

“This is just the beginning,” Gordon said alluding to the comprehensive planning process that will start next month.

The committee recommended and the full board approved hiring Hill Studio of Roanoke for a $71,000 re-do of the county’s comprehensive plan.

Gordon said the plan will be a virtually complete re-do, since the existing comprehensive plan was last revised in the late ‘70s.

Board members will recommend nominees for a committee of community representatives to work with the professional planners.

During its regular December meeting, the board heard a report from Jim Pearson of Comprehensive Benefits Inc. on the expected local impact of federal healthcare reform legislation.

Although he said reform is a “moving target,” Pearson assured the board that changes are not likely to affect the county’s health insurance costs in the coming year.

“I wouldn’t dig a foxhole now. I don’t think that’s necessary,” he said.

Pearson said that employees have done a good job of getting physicals and taking care of any chronic or acute health problems.

“You are one of the most fortunate clients I have,” he said.

Since the county has not had high claims in the past three years, he expects the renewal rate will be “fairly good.”

Officials will know more next month when Anthem draws up a renewal plan, he said.

Dependent adults up to the age of age 26 will be eligible for coverage, but Pearson said he does not expect a major impact on the plan.

A long-term-care insurance option that automatically enrolls employees but allows the to opt out is supposed to be implemented in 2011, but regulations governing the provision are not out yet, he said.

Some additional reporting will be required, with health care premiums list on W-2 forms as non-taxable items for IRS tracking.

Looking ahead, he said the county should keep an eye on 2018 when an excise tax on benefit-rich plans is scheduled to go into affect.

“It may change,” he said.

In other business, the supervisors approved a resolution allowing Chase City to join the Roanoke River Service Authority. The town has requested membership since it will be purchasing its water from the Authority when the Route 92 pipeline is completed.

Carter said all legislative bodies represented on the Authority are required to vote on a resolution.

The supervisors agreed to ask for the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation to conduct a field study of the Meherrin River in Mecklenburg so that it can be designated a scenic river.

County economic development director Angie Kellett said the initiative is part of a tourism proposal she has developed with Sandra Tanner of Virginia Tourism.

Kellett submitted a list of potential tourism committee members that the supervisors had requested. She said a dedicated committee is needed to help the economic development office move forward with a tourism initiative.

She proposes that the county in the future bring a tourism director on board.

Kellett also gave board members job descriptions from other counties that could serve as a guide for the committee and later for a director.

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