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Dane County employees could get $1,000 payments to offset inflation under proposed plan

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi and county supervisors have proposed a plan to give county employees a one-time $1,000 payment to offset the impact of inflation on their pocketbooks, a move Madison officials floated but failed to pass last year.

Parisi outlined the one-time payments, estimated to cost $3 million, in an April 4 memo to county employees, adding that he was confident the County Board would sign-off on the plan in the coming weeks.

Supervisors introduced the plan three days later, positioning it to be one of the first items of business taken up by newly elected board members who get sworn in Tuesday.

“I’m hoping this one-time payment will help all of our workers navigate the price hikes we are all experiencing at the grocery stores, gas stations and other goods and services families depend upon,” Parisi said in the memo.

Under the plan, full-time county employees would get the full $1,000 payment. Part-time employees would get prorated payments, and limited-term employees would get payments based on the numbers of hours they worked in the previous six months, according to the resolution. About 2,430 county employees would get either the full or prorated payments, said Chuck Hicklin, the county’s chief financial officer.

The number of eligible limited-term employees would depend on how many there are at the time of the payments, Hicklin added.

Nonunion county employees got a 3% wage hike at the beginning of this year and will receive another 3% raise in July.

Sup. Sarah Smith, 24th District, who co-sponsored the plan, said she hopes the one-time payments can be a boost to Dane County’s economy once workers have more cash to spend at local businesses.

“I think this is an important way for all county employees to get the things they need,” Smith said. “It’s a great way to stand with our staff and also benefit our entire county’s economy.”

Last year, Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway and City Council members made their own bid to give city employees a one-time, $2,661 payment using American Rescue Plan funds.

But that plan was ultimately scrapped since the payments were inconsistent with U.S. Department of Treasury rules for spending those federal dollars. Madison instead opted to give nonunion city employees a roughly 6% raise over the next three years.

Under the county’s plan, the payments would be paid for by the American Rescue Plan’s revenue replacement guidelines, which compensates governments for money lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The county is permitted to make the payments under those rules, Hicklin said.

In his memo, Parisi chastised how the board approached the wage increases that were passed in the county’s budget last fall.

“I’m hopeful that at a time of so much need, this worker-first initiative is greeted by the spirit that’s intended — an extension of gratitude — and not division that crept into and politicized wage increase discussions last fall,” Parisi said in his memo.

At the time, some supervisors argued that the 3% wage hikes weren’t fair to the county’s lowest earners, who got the smallest raises in terms of raw dollars since the raises are a percentage of their already low salaries.

Ultimately, the board approved a $1-an-hour increase for employees making $33.34 an hour or less, while other employees got the 3% raise.

The payments will be taken up by an incoming board that is set to be the most diverse and liberal on record. Thirty percent of incumbent supervisors chose not to run in the April 5 elections, paving the way for unopposed progressive candidates across the county.

During its organizational meeting Tuesday, supervisors will vote for the next board president, a powerful position that will dole out committee assignments and help set the agenda for the new board.

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