Minimum wage increase for county employees on the table in Washington County

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WASHINGTON COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) A minimum wage increase for county employees is on the table in Washington County, Tennessee.

The recommendation would apply to about 20 people employed by the sheriff’s department, the library and solid waste, according to Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy.

Solid Waste and Recycling Director Charles Baines said about a third of his employees currently make $8.50 an hour part time or an estimated $15 thousand a year after taxes.

“Honestly they don’t make enough to live on and they’re part time so they don’t have any benefits,” said Baines. “It’s a challenge to try to find employees…it’s almost impossible.”

That’s why commissioners are recommending raising the minimum wage for county employees to $10 an hour.

“We have people with four-year degrees in the library making below ten dollars,” said Grandy.

Commissioner Kent Harris said the increase, expected to cost the county $24 thousand dollars annually, won’t require new taxes since they shifted funds from legal services to cover it.

“This is a start that hopefully we can expand on because the county employees are the backbone of the county,” said Harris.

The recommendation follows a two percent raise for all county employees this budget year.

Harris said that didn’t do enough to help those at the bottom of the pay scale.

“I think we need to look at more equal pay to our employees instead of giving these percentage raises that only help the people at the very top end of the pay scale,” said Harris.

“If you just two percent and you don’t make very much on the hour it don’t add up to a whole lot,” said Baines.

The boost also comes at a time where some presidential candidates are proposing raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 dollars an hour.

Washington County leader said an increase of such magnitude would be too much too soon.

“You can’t just have entry level people starting higher than your existing employees,” said Grandy. “It would make a huge impact all across the county, all across every county.”

“It could only be accomplished in two ways: raise taxes or lay people off,” said Harris.

Grandy said the recommendation, finalized by the benefits committee Wednesday, will likely require a vote by the full commission at the end of the month.

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