Supervisors say no to bonuses

Published 6:19 pm Thursday, November 19, 2020

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Charlotte County Administrator Dan Witt went to bat for county employees during the Board of Supervisors (BOS) meeting Monday, Nov. 9, seeking bonuses only to be shot down in a 4 to 3 vote.

Witt requested a $1,500 bonus for full-time employees and a reduced bonus for part-time employees. In total the bonuses equaled $175,000.

According to Witt, the bonus would have been for approximately 90 full-time and 42 part-time employees and did not include school employees.

“The bonus comes out of the general fund because of the money that was paid by the CARES Act funding and legitimate expenses that are allowed by the grant funding,” Witt said.

Supervisor Kay Pierantoni, who made the motion not to approve the bonuses, said while she did appreciate the county’s employees and that good employees are the backbones of any business, she works for the citizens.

“I do care about the employees,” Pierantoni said. “But we’ve got to look to the citizens first. That’s who we work for.”

Before the meeting, Pierantoni took to Facebook to post the question about bonus pay to citizens to receive input.

“No. We deserve a tax break. Twenty percent tax increase last year. One percent sales tax,” Shane Newcombe commented,  “What do we get? Poor roads, poor service, no communications, no jobs, but give everyone a bonus for a good job for ripping the citizens off.”

Mark White Jr answered Pierantoni’s questions stating, “As much as I would like to see them get a bonus for their hard work during these difficult times I can’t in good conscience agree to appropriate funds to something unplanned when we are constantly hammered with talks of our current debt in supervisor meetings and potential raising of taxes to handle debt in the county. Until we can get the county debt under control and make good decisions for our future and the future of our children, I do not think we can appropriate funds to do anything else.”

Ward Halligan said he worked 12-hour shifts at his job without any bonus or hazard pay.

“Put the funds towards the schools,” Halligan said

John Fenton said it was only right to recognize the selfless sacrifices people make for others. “There will always be those who cry unfair, but life isn’t fair,” Fenton said. “Thank every person throughout your day that delivers your mail, stocks your food, works the register, keeps your community safe, and cares for your loved ones.”

Before the BOS vote, Supervisor Donna Fore shared Census Bureau statistics from 2018 for those living in Charlotte County. Fore said the average income for an individual in the county was $20,000, with a household income of $39,212.

“The average family, whether they’ve got a couple of kids or five kids or six kids, are making less than $40,000 a year,” Fore said. “That’s the median. I mean, some are below, some are up above. I can’t justify to people making that kind of money in my district a bonus. The sheriff is different, you know, they’ve been on the front lines. Healthcare workers are different. Teachers are different. I mean, they’ve had to really pivot and do new things and get really creative with trying to educate children in a pandemic, but just the average county employee to get a bonus.

“I cannot support that.”

Vice-Chairman Walker spoke to address Fore’s comments saying, some of the individuals Fore was referring to were county employees and have been without raises for years.

“We did keep these offices open when counties all around us closed,” he said.  “Our people came to work and met the needs of the public to the best of their ability.”

Supervisor Will Garnett suggested maybe scaling back the bonuses.

“Consider that maybe these bonuses are needed, but maybe scale back,” Garnett said. “Because we have seven months left in this budget, and we’ve got to make it to the end. And our train is very, very loaded, and our track is slippery.”

In the end, Witt said he stood by his recommendation to the board.

“I believe that our employees have done an exemplary job,” he said. “I believe that our social services people have been out there visiting and doing calls, and their calls have gone up. I believe that the sheriff’s department has done an exemplary job, and the amount of work that I’ve watched my staff, my limited staff, do since this has hit is incredible.”

Supervisor Butch Shook, Vice-Chairman Gary Walker, and Chairman Garland Hamlett Jr. voted in favor of employee bonuses.