Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

County Office Workers' Bonuses Also Help Save Taxes; Nassau: $1,000 Is for Cost-of-Living Raise

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

County Office Workers' Bonuses Also Help Save Taxes; Nassau: $1,000 Is for Cost-of-Living Raise

Article excerpt

Byline: Derek L. Kinner, Nassau Neighbors editor

Employees of the Nassau County Clerk's Office got an early Christmas present recently when Clerk of the Courts Chip Oxley made them come into work on a Saturday, then presented all 81 with $1,000 checks.

Oxley also gave the employees a tour of the new Nassau County Courthouse in Yulee, and then had them catch up on some work. All earned overtime because he made it mandatory that they work.

The $1,000 checks, minus standard taxes, were Oxley's cost of living raises, the clerk said. It was the second year he has opted to pay them a lump sum rather than give them increases in pay, like the County Commission and other elected officials do with their employees.

Most county employees are paid under a step program. After each year of service, they increase one step, which means they get a 3 percent increase in pay. Oxley said he eliminated the step program for his employees after 2001 because, with the cost of living increases, they were getting close to 6 percent. And employees also got merit increases.

"The reason I really looked at changing anything was because one night a taxpayer stood at the podium and felt there should be a better way to pay employees without giving such large raises," Oxley said.

Under Oxley's plan, all employees, no matter how much they make, get the same amount of money in the cost of living check.

"I was really tired of seeing them [lower-paid employees] get $400 to $500 a year and others get $2,500," he said of the time when the increases were a percentage of the employees' pay.

Oxley said that food, gas and other necessities cost everybody the same amount, so he wanted to compensate them all, especially those who make less and could use the money more.

Oxley, who as an elected official can spend his money anyway he sees fit, said the only increase he made in his budget this year was $180,000 for salary increases.

In addition to the cost of living checks, employees also can receive merit increases. Oxley said most receive them, though they can range from $100 to $750, depending on the quality of each employee's work. Previously, under the step program, the employees got a 3 percent increase no matter what. …

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