Widgetized Section

Go to Admin » Appearance » Widgets » and move Gabfire Widget: Social into that MastheadOverlay zone

Premium pay issue tabled again

By Staff, 12/3/21 10:12 AM

PRESCOTT – A second special meeting was held by the Nevada County Quorum Court Thursday night to talk about premium pay for employees and elected officials.

For the second time, nothing was resolved, with the exception of the court deciding to give those who receive premium pay based on $2 an hour. The premium pay would come out of money from the American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) and is supposed to be based on the actual number of hours worked. According to data provided by Nevada County Clerk Julie Oliver, this would amount to $296,721.60, and would included elected officials, but not justices of the peace.

A representative from the Southwest Arkansas Planning and Development District (SWAPDD) is supposed to show up next week to inform the county what can and can’t be done with these funds where premium pay is concerned. The court will be notified when she’s coming via a blast email.

County Attorney Ben Hale tried to clarify the situation, saying there’s a lot of uncertainty and disagreement on whether JPs and elected officials are eligible for premium pay. In Hempstead County, he said, only county employees were given premium pay with the ordinance stating they were to be paid $3 an hour. Hale told the court how the ordinance is worded will be important in making sure there are no problems later on.

However, he added, there’s a grey area where elected officials are concerned as they aren’t county employees. He said guidance is needed where elected officials are concerned. Hale said he’s talked to other counties about this and all agree employees can be paid from ARPA funds. He suggested two separate ordinances, one providing county employees with premium pay, and a second strictly for elected officials as this should protect the county under the intent of the act.

Hale pointed out during COVID elected officials officials took the same risks as the employees, but the county doesn’t need to get in the position of having to pay these funds back. He said it would be better to pay elected officials and JPs out of CARES Act money as it’s separate from ARPA money and can be used for more things. The county has $66,000 in CARES Act money left at this point. Nevada County Judge Mark Glass, in a phone interview Friday morning, said he’d rather not use this for premium pay, but keep it for emergency situations.

Hale presented two things for the court to think about. One, to pay elected officials and JPs with CARES Act money; and two, not to pay JPs as they’re paid on a per diem basis whose hours can’t be tracked (other than time spent in meetings), and using CARES Act money for them. The idea, he said, is for the elected officials, including JPs, in this case, to be treated as county employees. He went on saying it could be possible to pay elected officials and JPs out of count general, but the county may not have the money to do this.

The problem, he continued, is liability, and the fact this is a federal law thousands of pages long, but added it will be cleared up eventually. He reminded the court these funds don’t have to be used until 2024 and there’s no hurry to do anything with this money.

JP Pat Grimes told the panel she’d called other class 1 counties and found only one had paid JPs, though others did pay elected officials. She said they have programs to do payroll, and this is something needed here.

JP Chris Fore said Nevada County needs a timekeeping system  for all offices that can be accessed by the clerk’s office and make this easier in the future.

Oliver said the county has the same program as other counties, but doesn’t use it.

Grimes suggested waiting, saying time sheets and records are needed, along with accurate reports before anything is done.

JP Bob Cummings said the county has time sheets. Olier said it wouldn’t take any time to input the time into the computers, and will put time sheet information into the computers next year. However, elected officials’ time won’t be kept in computers as they are salaried, no hourly. Oliver continued saying she’s been told there are two options – hourly pay or lump sum payment. Lump sum payment, she said, would pay up to 385 hours at up to $13 an hour for everyone, and hourly which is how figures for the QC were presented. “I feel I deserve it as much as any other employees. My deputies definitely deserve it,” she said.

In the end the court tabled the issue, aside from voting to pay those who receive premium pay $2 an hour.