Employees working for Forsyth County will receive a pay increase next year, though there is concern rising insurance costs could take a financial toll.
On Tuesday, Forsyth County Commissioners voted 5-0 to move forward with a planned merit increase for full-time employees. Employees are expected to receive about 5 percent on average ahead of current salaries, and the increase will begin with the Jan. 8 pay period.
The pay increase was a planned part of the 2018 budget, and a budget presentation from October shows an increase of $2,209,825 for county staff and $208,333 for library staff, for a total increase of about $2.4 million.
County officials said while it appears the employees are in favor of the pay increase, those extra funds could likely go toward an expected increase in employees’ insurance rates.
“The complaint that I’m hearing from employees is that as much as they appreciate this 5 percent [increase], with insurance costs going up it’s really like they’re not even getting a raise,” said District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills.
County CFO Dave Gruen said though both pay and insurance were increasing, he felt employees would see an increase.
“While the percentages may be aligned — or even one larger — what I’ve seen in the past is most employees should come out ahead,” Gruen said.
County Manager Eric Johnson agreed with Mills’ statement, adding that “there are employees that are in the situation that aren’t seeing permanent increases in pay” and are not keeping up with insurance.
“Health insurance costs are going to go up faster than compensation, and that is a burden for some employees,” Johnson said. “Our challenge, in part, is to try to look for creative ways to hold the line and institute wellness programs to help your employees and at the same time control their cost increases as well as ours.”
Johnson also recommended a study on a potential future increase.
Mills said one option for the county to consider is a clinic for only county employees. She said a similar program in Hall County is popular for those employees.
“They have two doctors that are paid a flat fee for the year and they have several nurse practitioners,” Mills said. “It’s totally free for their county employees to go there, and [officials] said it had reduced their healthcare costs by $4 million.”
She said employee’s prescriptions, physicals and employee drug testing were also covered at the clinic.