By Eliot Duke
Dunn Daily Record
When the financial dust finally settled, Harnett county employees came out on top.
Faced with leftover money from COVID-19 funding, county commissioners on Tuesday elected to pass the surplus onto the people who stayed on the job during the coronavirus pandemic.
Commissioners approved bonuses of $1,000 and $500 for full-time and part-time employees, respectively, dating back to people who were on the job on March 1, 2020.
“This is a reward for their loyalty and the work that they did,” Commissioner Matt Nichol said. “They kept the county running while we were shut down due to COVID.”
Assistant County Manager Brian Haney kicked off the discussion of what to do with the more than $1 million of displaced COVID-19 money by taking commissioners through a variety of different options. Ultimately, the decision came down to whether the bonus would or would not exceed the available COVID funds.
Rewarding $500 and $250 bonuses covered the allotted amount, but the $1,000/$500 scenario required using money from the county’s fund balance.
Harnett County Finance Director Kimberly Honeycutt said the added expenditure would still keep the overall state of the fund balance above targeted thresholds.
Establishing the parameters of the bonus took some time as commissioners considered who did what and when over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. The final call established part-time workers as 30 hours a week with the bonus pro-rated, including for seasonal workers. A person who worked 25 hours a week will receive a percentage of $500 in relation to 30 hours.
Classified staff with Harnett County Schools like maintenance workers, bus drivers and teacher assistants, were included in the bonus.
“For the most part, [classified workers] are all hourly folks,” Chairman W. Brooks Matthews said. “Whereas the certified folks are mainly salary. They had to work during the pandemic. When a lot of the salary employees were working remotely, they were present and working every day.”
Board of Election workers missed out, however, as commissioners felt since the state already rewarded them for working the 2020 election, they would not be included for the local bonus.
Haney presented several dates as reference points for where to determine bonus eligibility including July 1, 2020, and January, 1, 2021, before commissioners settled on the start of the pandemic.
“Those employees were working then, worked through that time and are still with us,” said Matthews. “I think they are the ones we need to reward for their loyalty.”
Acting County Manager George Wood told commissioners his office would start working on getting the bonus checks out as soon as possible.