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      Wage Disparity Part of Budget Battle in Hall County

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      A budget battle builds in Hall County, where one department may see a much bigger pay raise than all the rest.

      He hasn't seen an angry mob, but Hall County Attorney Mark Young has heard rumbling.

      "No one's marched on my office with glowing torches, so that's always a good sign," he said.

      If other county workers get a generous raise, he thinks his employees deserve better too.

      Young said, "We're in a position of growth. We weathered the recession well, nobody in county government wants to spend unnecessary money but I think the growing realization is salaries have to be equalized."

      The issue stems from the county jail, where the union negotiated a nearly nine percent raise. The county board then applied that same increase to all jail staff, even clerical positions not in the union.

      At least one county supervisor thinks they raised the bar too high with that action.

      Gary Quandt said, "We heard from the county attorney and other elected officials that think maybe we're treating their employees different from the rest."

      Mark Young has a reputation as a tough but frugal prosecutor, and as he said, "I throw nickels like they're manhole covers."

      But thinks paying a few cents more is justified here.

      "Everybody wants to do work that's important, that's why people stay in the jobs," Young said. "They also want to feel like they're being compensated fairly."

      On the other side of the equation, the tax base is growing. But that too can be contentious.

      Quandt said, "There are a few more dollars, but we're also looking at lowering the mil levy this year. With the additional increase, if your house didn't go up in valuation, your taxes should stay the same or go down, but not too many houses stayed the same, in valuation, so they're still going to have a tax increase because their valuation went up."

      Wages have been a divisive issue in Hall County. For a little context, six months ago, they were split on raises for elected officials. Now the board wrestles with this.

      Talks continue later this week.

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