Adams County has surpassed $300 million in total assets thanks to its assessed value of oil and gas in production, meaning each of the five supervisors are now eligible for a $4,300 annual raise, which would increase their pay from $40,400 to $44,700 per year.
Adams County Board Attorney Scott Slover told The Natchez Democrat earlier this week that to approve the raise, the supervisors would have to pass a resolution stating the amount of the increase and spread it over the minutes. If the supervisors vote themselves a raise, justice court judges, and the county prosecuting attorney, would automatically have their salaries increased from $40,400 to $44,700, as well.
But, employees of the county-owned hospital formerly known as Natchez Regional Medical Center aren’t happy that the supervisors appear ready to approve an increase in their own pay, before settling the outstanding debt owed for the matching funds for the state employment retirement system, or PERS. The amount is still unpaid from years prior to the sale. Natchez Regional was sold out of bankruptcy to Merit Health Systems in 2014.
Earlier this year the legislature cleared the way for the Adams County Board of Supervisors to pay the amount owed for the employer contribution of PERS and to set things straight for retirees.
Supervisors haven’t earned raise
I work at the formerly owned Natchez Regional Medical Center. I started to work there in 1991 when making contributions to the PERS state retirement was a requirement, not a choice. After looking into the PERS retirement, I didn’t mind having it taken out of my check because the employer matched the contribution at a higher rate, and I knew in the long run, I would be glad I was a member. I had a couple of chances to leave the county-owned hospital for higher hourly rates, but stayed because of the PERS retirement system. After watching our county supervisors stand by while the hospital went into bankruptcy twice and my 23.5 years in PERS come to an end, I was lost on what my next move should be.
Bear in mind, with state retirement, you’re eligible to retire and draw a monthly check at 25 years regardless of age. For a year, I searched for another job at only four hospitals left in the state with PERS retirement, hoping to finish out my time. As I watched the bankruptcy unfold over the next two years and learned more and more about how the hospital had not paid their part of our retirement or insurance premiums, I gave up and decided to roll my PERS over and invest it. I might regret that one day, but I still have money tied up in PERS that I can’t get because the county-owned hospital never paid their part. That money has been sitting there close to three years now making no interest.
The county supervisors sent Bill 2865 to the house that was passed and signed by the governor the first week in May. The bill allows the county to pick up the tab for the county-owned hospital and pay the PERS employer contribution owed to the former employee’s. PERS will not release that money or add time worked to any of those accounts until this is paid. The bill was a fair gesture and the least that the county supervisors should do after what took place under their watch. I haven’t heard or read anything else about Bill 2865 since it was signed by the governor.
Should the county supervisors vote themselves a raise? I don’t think they’ve earned it.
Rod C. Lindsey–Natchez resident
The Adams County Board of Supervisors next meeting is at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 6. At least 3 of the 5 supervisors have indicated they will support the pay raise.
Leaders Eat Last
No matter what one thinks of how the Natchez hospital was run as a county-owned entity, for the board of supervisors to now even consider, much less appear seriously inclined, to vote themselves a pay-raise while hospital retirees are unable to access and invest the full sum of their benefits is the epitome of poor leadership.
Simon Sinek is an inspirational speaker who has an outlook on leadership and life I appreciate. His ideas come across as the most sensible thing after they’ve been spoken. His lessons tend to give the feeling of something a reader or listener has always understood as a basic truth.
It’s easy to catch oneself after the fact responding to Sinek’s prompts by saying, “Well, of course that is correct. That’s just common-sense.” However, the chaos and individuality of our current times doesn’t instill much confidence that our friends and neighbors can recognize a common-sensical solution when they see it. Certainly not as easily as in times past. Regardless, it is true that none of us can always see the obvious. Sometimes it takes someone to point it out.
Sinek has a book titled “Leaders Eat Last”. That simple title says a lot in three little words. Public service, leadership, is not just about serving the public. That’s obvious. It’s about putting those we serve first, and ourselves last.
In a time when character and selfless leadership is rare, the Adams County Board of Supervisors will send a clear message with the way they handle Tuesday’s upcoming vote of who they truly serve as elected officials.
The first thing that should be handled at the meeting should be obvious.