“Heavy on the Cinnamon & Light on the Cloves*”: Why Harborites Are Peeved About County Pay Hikes


Soon as you’re through roasting those chestnuts on an open fire, take a gander at the Grays Harbor county budget for 2017.

The “meet in the middle” budget that was adopted last Thursday “creates the highest operating deficit of the four options, with expenses for the year of about $1.25 million in excess of expected revenue. The difference would be made up by reserves.”

Oh, and it looks like pay increases may be on the way for county employees. And yep, they’ll affect the general fund. Hate to throw Old Man Potter into this yuletide clam bake, but when’s the last time you got a pay increase?

Here’s how some of the basic $ facts for Grays Harbor shake out in The Real (Not on the Taxpayer Dime) World, per U.S. Census data:

Income and Poverty

i Median household income (in 2015 dollars), 2011-2015: $43,538

i Per capita income in past 12 months (in 2015 dollars), 2011-2015: $22,387

i Persons in poverty, percent:16.0%

While we’re on the subject, here’s more cheery news per the  Economic Security Department of Washington State (which is sort of an oxy-moron in this neck of the woods, but who’s counting?):

The average annual wage in 2014 was $36,834, well below the state’s average annual wage of $55,003. The median hourly wage in 2014 was $18.60, below the state’s median hourly wage of $22.61.

But wait. It gets better. Also from the ESD:

In 2013, the county’s per capita personal income was $32,892, less than the state ($47,717) and the nation ($44,765).

According to the U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts, the median household income was $43,379 in Grays Harbor County during 2010-2014, less than the state ($60,294) and the nation ($53,482) during the same period.

In 2014, Grays Harbor County’s poverty rate of 18.6 percent was well above Washington state’s rate of 13.2 percent and the nation’s rate of 14.8 percent, according to U.S Census Bureau QuickFacts. The state and national rates are not directly comparable to the county rate because they each use different data sources. (Emphasis added.)

Just for kicks and grins, check out: City of Monte$ano Leads Per Capita Pay Pack.

Another example at the county level.  From January 2016:

Management Services:

Request Approval, 2016 Salary Resolution, including cost of living increases per union contracts.

A motion was made, seconded and passed to approve Resolution No. 2016 – 002 fixing compensation of employees for and after January 1, 2016.

The salary schedules for step increases and COLAs are as follows:

  1. Courthouse AFSCME contract and exempt employees: .5% COLA
  2.  Public Works AFSCME contract and exempt employees: 2% COLA
  3.   Sheriff’s Department Teamsters Support contract employees: 1% – 4% COLA
  4.   Sheriff’s Department Teamsters Corrections contract employees: 2% COL
  5. Sheriff’s Department Teamsters Criminal Division contract and exempt employees: 2% COLA

Okay, private sector peeps. When’s the last time you got a COLA? Or a pay raise? This may be one reason why your average Harborite is a wee bit peeved about talk of salary increases for county employees. Duh.

Commissioner Wes Cormier put the subject out on Facebook accompanied with a graphic. In a December 22 post, he writes:

This is the simplified version of the county budget that was passed for 2017. Would you approve pay raises out of this fund?


Ever see what happens when someone lights a powder keg?

One Harborite opined:

No pay raises and restructuring county retirement and benefits plans get rid of the unions and live with in the money you take in. I have not had a pay increase in over three years. The public sector should lag behind the private sector by five years. Now if they want to have pay raises it should be on performance only and the employees should have to justify why they deserve it in a public commissioners meeting.

On the same thread, Commissioner Cormier explained:

Here is some additional info: Each of the five county contracts, between COLAS and step/range increases, has seen 25.5% to 37.5% pay increases over the last 10 years.

Okay, class. Back up a bit and re-read some of the figures above regarding annual income, etc. for your average Joe and Josephine on the Harbor. (That’s okay. I’ll wait.)

Still with me? Good. Cuz here’s the deal: By any metric, it’s probably safe to say that most private sector employees in this county aren’t exactly planning on retiring to the south of France or ponying up for another Aston Martin any time soon. So why in the h-e- double hockey sticks are *county* employees in line for another pay raise? Hint, in part: u-n-i-o-n. See above.

Granted, reining in union demands won’t solve all the county’s fiscal woes or budget challenges. It’s not that simple. But opening union negotiation$ to public observation would be a step in the right direction. Lincoln County already has.

How ‘bout it, Grays Harbor? Which commissioner will have the spine to take this on come January?

Speaking of January, don’t forget about that new sales tax hike set to take effect on January 1. The salient sentence in last week’s Daily World story on the subject: “The new rates put Aberdeen above the state average for sales tax, about 8.9 percent.”

Is this place great, or what?

If you’re choking on that last chestnut, buck up. As indicated above, the bright spot in this lump-of-coal-in-your-$tocking $cenario is Commissioner Wes Cormier, easily the most consistent fiscal conservative on the Board. Has been for years.

Indeed, Commissioner Cormier has a pretty solid track record of flying solo in opposition to this sort of spending more often than any other commish. What will newly elected Commissioner Randy Ross do?

The county seems to be out of mulled wine* just now. Lite egg nog, anyone?


* You’ll get that if you know who Clarence Oddbody, A.S. II was. Or George Bailey.