County amends budget, gives pay raises

Published 5:17 pm Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Butler County Commission on Tuesday approved a pay increase for four certified correctional officers.

The increase will raise their pay to $10.50.

The vote also increased the pay rate for a fifth slot, which is currently vacant.

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It comes less than two months after the commission voted during its budget hearing to raise all employees to a minimum of $9 an hour and give a 3 percent cost of living raise to all employees that were already making more than $9 an hour.

Commission Chairman Frank Hickman said he was concerned that the commission is setting a dangerous precedent with the vote.

“The purpose of the budget hearing is to set the budget for the next 12 months,” he said. “… I don’t want anyone to think I’m opposed to the pay scale, but my problem is we had the opportunity to do this six weeks ago. We took action with the full knowledge of the facts presented to us at the time and made a decision based on what we believed we could afford to do, and now here we are amending the budget.”

According to County Administrator Diane Kilpatrick, the increase will cost approximately $7,000.

Maj. Al McKee, jail administrator, said the increase in pay is necessary to keep quality officers at the Butler County Correctional Facility.

“We aren’t flipping burgers over there,” he said. “I’d invite anyone on the commission to come spend a day at the jail and you’d see why these officers deserve this pay.”

The officers who will receive the pay raise are currently paid $9.55, $10.02, $10.02 and $9.27 an hour.

“By bringing them all to $10.50 an hour we level the playing field,” McKee said. “If we set the pay at $10.50 an hour for certified officers and $9.50 an hour for uncertified officers, we build a foundation and we don’t have all these crazy numbers like $9.27.”

According to McKee, a certified correctional officer is any certified law enforcement officer with the State of Alabama or a corrections officer who has completed an 80-hour jail course.

Commissioner Joey Peavy voted in favor of the increase to protect the county.

“The biggest liability we have is the jail,” he said. “We have to do what we can to keep good certified employees there and keep ourselves from future litigation. This will allow the jail to hold on to better employees.”

Commissioner Jesse McWilliams, who voted in favor of the increase, said he believed supporting the county’s law enforcement was a top priority.

“I totally agree (that making an amendment after the budget hearing) is not good business,” he said. “I also think that this is something that is very necessary, and that people will understand.”