Bibb County giving year-end bonuses to employees

After a year of penny pinching, the Bibb County Commission voted Tuesday to spend nearly $400,000 on employee bonuses this holiday season.

Employees face the same economic pains as the county and could use a little relief, Commissioner Joe Allen said.

“If we’ve got a little bit of money, this could help,” he said.

Full-time employees will receive $500 and permanent part-time employees will receive $250. The bonuses, which will be taxed, will be given to 743 employees, including eight who work part time, said Marilu Cowan, director of Human Resources.

Elected officials will not receive the bonuses, which total $369,500. The bonuses will be paid before the end of the calendar year.

“It will help the people at the lower end of the pay scale ... as well as all employees,” said Chairman Charlie Bishop, who originally proposed the idea. “This is the reasonable thing to do.”

But Commissioner Bert Bivins, who dissented from the rest of the commission, said in a prepared statement that the move appeared dishonest after the county told departments and agencies to cut their budgets earlier this year. As a result, they were given less than they needed, he said.

“Now, all of a sudden, we can come up with several hundred thousand dollars to give employees $500 each,” Bivins said. “Next year, we should expect no one to believe us when we say we’re having a hard time getting the budget balanced because funds are limited. ... This decision makes us appear dishonest.”

Other commissioners, too, were hesitant about giving bonuses, even though they ultimately voted to do so.

“The next few months are going to be critical” in terms of money, said Commissioner Elmo Richardson, chairman of the commission’s Finance Committee.

Sales tax collections are holding steady but not picking up, he said.

Last month, the commission authorized moving $5.5 million from the fund balance to a trust for post-retirement benefits.

This coming year also will be challenging as the county finishes its property revaluation and receives an up-to-date tax digest, Commissioner Lonzy Edwards said.

“I think we do need to be very, very cautious,” he said.

To contact writer Jennifer Burk, call 744-4345.