The Frankfort Independent Schools Board of Education recently unanimously approved HERO pay — a temporary $8 per hour pay increase — for its food service workers for a 7½-week period.
“This is frontline work and there’s not enough that can be said to express our appreciation for these folks,” FIS board Chairperson Jina Greathouse said of the food service employees, who have been providing meals to the district’s students during Nontraditional Instruction days.
However, a week before, when Judge-Executive Huston Wells asked the Franklin County Fiscal Court to consider a temporary $2 per hour pay hike for its employees who are at a higher risk of exposure to COVID-19, the magistrates squabbled back and forth about whether it was an administrative decision that Wells alone could approve or whether they needed to vote on the measure.
And then, ultimately, did nothing.
Wells recommended a $2 per hour pay bump for firefighters, inspectors, animal control, deputy jailers and deputy sheriffs. As salaried employees, deputy coroners would have received a weekly $50 stipend. The additional pay would have lasted for 10 weeks and cost the county $155,820.
While we realize the COVID-19 crisis is affecting revenue in the county budget, making it difficult for departments to predict their future needs, $155,820 is less than a drop in the bucket of the county’s $27 million budget.
But it’s less about the money as it is about the way the court went about its rejection of the idea.
Magistrate Lambert Moore flat out said no — saying it’s money the county doesn’t know if it will have. JW Blackburn was also hesitant, adding that holding off on a pay increase now might reduce the chance of layoffs later. Marti Booth waffled on her decision, originally saying she was in favor of it, then changing her mind.
Scotty Tracy, Sherry Sebastian and Michael Mueller danced around a vote by trying to throw the ball back in Wells’ court, citing that a declaration of emergency authorizes the judge-executive to make the decision and that it should be handled administratively. While County Attorney Rick Sparks explained that the court would have to vote on it, Sebastian interrupted to say it felt like “the court is trying to get railroaded on this.”
Sparks fired back. “I hear the court’s not wanting to do its job. That’s not railroading. You’re faced with the decision to vote it up or down.”
In the end, no vote was taken and the item was removed from the agenda — a thoughtful gesture for those on the frontlines during a global pandemic that the court squandered.