Most Guilford County employees don’t come to the Guilford County Board of Commissioner meetings.

But if there had been a group of employees at the board’s Thursday, June 16 meeting, they probably would have jumped for joy and carried the county commissioners out of the room on their shoulders due to their delight over the new county budget adopted that night.  A lot of groups, social programs and county departments made out like bandits that evening, and county employees got more love than they have in a very long time.

After the meeting where the new fiscal 2022-2023 budget was adopted on a 6-to-3 party line vote, with all six Democrats voting to approve the budget, Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Skip Alston admitted that there was a whole lot in the budget for county employees.

“This budget is very, very, very, very good to the employees,” Alston acknowledged.

He said multiple factors went into the board’s thinking.  For instance, he said, county employee pay and benefits hadn’t kept up with those in other similarly situated local governments.

He also said that Guilford County’s insufficient pay structure and benefits were making it hard to retain the best employees and hire new ones.

For months, Guilford County Manager Mike Halford argued hard for more employee pay and perks – and the Board of Commissioners added more of the same before adopting the budget on June 16.

All county employees, including well-paid directors, had received a 5 percent pay increase six months ago.

The budget includes $15 million ­– with $13.4 million coming from county funds and $1.6 million from projected federal/state reimbursements – to cover the higher pay.

It also includes funding for a mid-year merit average increase of 3 percent that will be doled out based on employee performance.

Halford’s budget message also points to more raises in the future.  He stated: “The current effort to analyze and design an updated pay structure is on-going and the budget allocation represents a placeholder pending completion of the study. Once the analysis is complete, we will continue discussions with the Board to define an appropriate compensation philosophy and framework.”

(Read: We will ask for more pay increases.)

Some other perks in the new budget include providing an automatic 5 percent 401(k) contribution to all benefit-eligible employees as well as a continuation of the current automatic 5 percent 401(k) contribution to sworn officers who work for the county, reinstating the longevity bonus pay system that was done away with years ago and offering new retention bonuses for hard-to-fill jail guard and Emergency Services positions.