I support Tooele County’s recent decision to award bonuses to their employees (“County workers, officials, will get year-end bonuses,” Dec. 26, 2013). Let me explain why by way of an analogy.
In May 2012, I finally fulfilled my dream of becoming a home-based small business owner. I’ve learned a lot over the last year and a half building my client base. Thankfully, despite the economic downturn, I’ve managed to turn a profit by keeping overhead expenses low.
However, monthly finances are still tight. In order to get clients, I need to invest in marketing opportunities. I’ve had to purchase office equipment and other costs, and join professional associations and participate in professional training. And of course, there’s the cost of hiring out work to talented professionals who have expertise in areas where I’m not as skilled.
When Christmas came around, like the county, I considered giving out a bonus to the talented people whom I’ve had the pleasure of working with to show my appreciation for riding out some rough patches and being willing to keep their take-home pay lower than the industry standard. I couldn’t really afford a lot, so I’ve had to be a little creative. Because I couldn’t afford not giving one.
These are similar sentiments expressed by our Tooele County Commissioners.
It’s been a rough year for our county employees after all. Personally, I don’t see how anyone could have tolerated and worked in such an environment. It’s one thing to not be paid a ton, or to have to combine positions and increase your hours for the same pay, but to be publicly told they should be fired? No doubt county employee morale has been lower than the Marianas Trench.
Sure, the timing is a little off. It’s akin to someone asking for charity (increased county taxes) while driving their ATV down the street (bonuses for the employees). There’s a certain disconnect, and I can appreciate why community members cried foul at the news.
But if the county doesn’t award the bonuses now, then when should they? When they’ve lost the employees who have stuck around despite all the uncertainty and mass layoffs? When they’ve lost them and their valuable skills to other counties?
It wouldn’t have made sense to give county employees a bonus three years from now, when county finances are (hopefully) better. In addition, if we are down to bare-bones in terms of staff, retaining these experienced workers will only be to our benefit.
That said, I do take issue with how the commissioners are glibly saying they found $200,000 in the budget to give to employees when they couldn’t put together hard figures at their most recent commission meeting to support the need to consolidate county positions. It makes their figures suspect, which I am sure is not their intent. That lack of preparation was a wrong note in an otherwise admirable performance over the past year.
I would also hope that all the commissioners will choose to give up their bonuses. If they don’t, they might have to worry about retention come November elections.
Now, whether or not the employees themselves will consider the bonuses enough to want to stay on is anyone’s guess. But at least the county has given its best effort.
Jewel Punzalan Allen is a memoir writing coach and an award-winning journalist who lives in Grantsville. Visit her website at www.TreasuredStories.net.