06/01/08 — Health Department discusses cost of living raise

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Health Department discusses cost of living raise

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on June 1, 2008 3:07 AM

The staff at the Wayne County Health Department has lobbied the Board of Health for cost-of-living and merit raises in the coming year.

The department is struggling to keep pace with their counterparts across the state, said James Roosen, health director, who said that while the salaries may lag behind, overall it offers "good benefits."

While merits have been cut across county government for the coming year, that did not stop several from speaking out at this month's Board of Health meeting.

Gale Pate, a processing assistant, said she had researched pay scales in other counties and Wayne "doesn't compare."

"We would like to keep that cost of living for us," she said. "We would like to discuss keeping quality people at work."

Processing assistant Lib Jackson said, "We work hard for the Health Department and want to be rewarded for a job well done."

Teresa Blankenship, also a processing assistant, said the move would help "show that we're appreciated."

She said she had taken steps to advance her skills, taking a Spanish class to help the bilingual clientele and also works with the interpreters on staff.

"I'm confident in what I do and how I treat the public to bring them in to our Health Department," she told the board. "I don't think we're asking too much to keep the cost of living or merits."

Board vice-chairman Ira Thigpen agreed workers should be valued, and incentive raises are a means to reflect their value.

"I have not met anyone (here) yet who does not deserve a merit raise," he said. "I don't know anything we can do about merit raises .... but I know that y'all are all under paid.

"I do know that the Health Department has some benefits that other health departments don't have. We do need to see if we can get these salaries increased."

Roosen said the proposal calls for a 2.3 percent cost of living boost.

"But the cost of living this year from February 2007 to February 2008 is 4 percent, that's how much it's increased," he said.

The discussion came during a recent meeting on the Health Department's 2008-08 budget. No vote was taken due to lack of a quorum.

A called meeting was held this week with the board approving the budget.