Athens-Clarke County Commissioners continued work on the county’s budget at a meeting on Tuesday, where much of the discussion centered on the thorny issue of a living wage.
While most Commissioners broadly agree that the county should pay all its employees a living wage of $15 per hour, they differed on some of the details. One of those details is whether part-time and seasonal employees should be included in the pay bump.
That’s a proposition that District 8’s Carol Myers pushed back on, citing a lack of consistent increases in retiree benefits.
"I'm going to have a hard time supporting seasonal employees getting $15 an hour when I look at the numbers we received today," Myers said. "I was just in shock when I saw the increases they have not gotten."
District 2’s Mariah Parker suggested that it wasn’t necessarily an either/or choice, saying, "I would love to work with my collagues to figure out a way to address both issues."
Commissioners also tangled over where the money for a living wage should come from. While some potential cuts were largely non-controversial, a proposal to scrap a $75,000 purchase of leaf vacuums caused some consternation among Commissioners.
District 7’s Russell Edwards said that the machines were necessary to keep bike lanes clear of leaves and debris that could make riding dangerous.
"They're going to help clean our streets and maintain our infrastructure," Edwards said.
District 6’s Jesse Houle disagreed, saying, "We're talking about leaf collection materials ... for a very privileged part of town as higher priorities than paying people above a poverty wage."
Commissioners meet again next Tuesday for their regular monthly session, which will also serve as the next public comment opportunity on the budget. Commissioners are expected to vote on next year’s budget at a June 15th special session.