GARLAND — Town employees will be getting a little something extra in their stockings this year, thanks to the Garland board’s unanimous restoration of Christmas bonuses, approved at the board’s meeting earlier this week.
An item added to the agenda at the beginning of the meeting, Commissioner Haywood Johnson was brief in making his request.
“I was going to request giving (employees) an extra week’s paycheck for their Christmas bonus, something to show them we appreciate them,” said Johnson. “I make a motion we give them a Christmas bonus, an extra week’s pay.”
The bonuses fell by the wayside last year amid budget-cutting and massive fiscal obstacles with which the Garland Board of Commissioners was tasked with dealing in keeping the town afloat. That included a number of special budget sessions, close contact with the N.C. Local Government Commission, the hiring of an independent auditor to assist the town in rectifying records and the establishment of a town finance committee to approve all expenditures. During the transition, the towns two clerks were fired, and all bonuses were eliminated.
Nearly two years after those financial discrepancies first came to light, the town now has a new office staff, a completely new board and is on much better financial footing.
With the town having progressed, Johnson said he wanted to see the Christmas bonus return — and he wanted that to be in the form of one week’s pay for each employee. The motion was seconded by Commissioner S.J. Smith.
“I know I’m new and I don’t really know how much anyone makes or any of that. And I’m definitely all for letting an employee know that we appreciate them,” said Carolyn Melvin. “But I worked a lot of years and I never got a whole extra paycheck.”
Johnson said he had received that kind of Christmas bonus before on several occasions.
“Commissioners, I agree that we need to reward our employees but I would just like before you vote, to consider where the money is coming from because it was not put in the budget when we did our budget talks,” Mayor Winifred Murphy said. “I’m also concerned about additional expenses we might have coming in reference to our audit.”
Murphy asked commissioners to look at the “budget versus actual,” a running tally of expenditures to budgeted amounts, “to see if it is fiscally responsible to do this at this time.”
“It was done prior to 2012 and we discontinued it because of our financial status,” the mayor said. “If that’s something we need to do, I think we need to look at it during the budget talks that we do in the spring … and then also consider what might be forthcoming that we may not be aware of.”
There are four town employees, including town clerk Jennifer Gray, deputy clerk Jennifer Richardson and two maintenance and streets employees, Willie Johnson and Val Bannerman, that would receive those checks.
“The employees work hard for us and everybody gets a Christmas bonus,” said Commissioner S.J. Smith. “It seems like we can find some money somewhere. We scrounge around to find it everywhere else.”
Johnson agreed, saying he calculated that it would take $2,080 to give those four employees a Christmas bonus.
“I think we can fish around somewhere … to get $2,080 to show the employees we appreciate them,” he said.
Murphy asked the board to keep in mind that the actual auditing of the town’s finances was going to cost quite a bit “over what was contracted,” and it would likely be around that $2,000 figure. Gray said there has been some money that has been some unanticipated revenues come in, but some funds would have to be shuffled around.
“We would definitely have to look at some of these capital outlay and contingency items and move some things around,” the clerk said. “I feel like you’re looking at about $1,000 out of (one fund) and approximately $1,000 out of (another fund).”
No items were approved to be moved around during the brief discussion prior to Murphy asking for a vote, which was unanimous on behalf of the board in approving the Christmas bonuses.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.