Macon-Bibb employees may get a $1,000 bonus. Where would the money come from?

Macon-Bibb County employees may get a one-time bonus before the end of 2019.

The proposed $1,000 bonus comes at a time when County Commissioners have wrangled over whether to implement a small property tax increase to cover raises for employees. In this instance, however, the $2.2 million for the bonuses would come from the county’s reserve fund, which is expected to bounce back after taking a severe hit in recent years.

The bonus ordinance will be on next week’s County Commission meeting agenda. It was approved Tuesday by the Operations and Finance Committee.

Employees who have worked at least 30 days for the county would get the bonus on Dec. 20.

“Sometimes you have to take a chance,” said Commissioner Joe Allen, who sponsored the ordinance. “Sometimes you have to do things to take care of your employees.”

That opportunity coming at the expense of the county’s rainy day fund does not sit well with some county leaders. Mayor Robert Reichert said the focus now should be to continue rebuilding the reserves.

The county will undergo evaluations on pay scale and job descriptions that could increase wages for employees in next fiscal year’s budget.

“I think this is sending the wrong message to the public and (bond) rating agencies,” Reichert said. “We needed to do this the right way.”

There’s currently about $4 million in the reserve fund. It’s estimated that another $9 million or so will be added back into the coffers later this year.

The county will likely have to cover an additional $9.3 million in debt and other obligations over the next two fiscal years, according to a finance document.

“I think that’s a very sobering figure, and we, today, have to be very, very careful about how we act as stewards of any surplus we actually have now or will have going forward,” Commissioner Larry Schlesinger said.

Commissioners approved a $165 million general fund budget in June that does not include a property tax rate hike. The final vote on the millage rate, which is currently 20.652 mills, will be held in August.