County employees may see a 6% pay increase next year.

Jay County Council decided Wednesday to give the OK to department heads to factor a 6% raise for employees into the 2023 budget.

Raises could vary for each department depending on pending job classification changes and budgets are not typically finalized until early fall.

Also Wednesday, council agreed to eliminate the previously set June 1 deadline for the community to present ideas on how to use the county’s allocation of American Rescue Plan Act funds.

Jay County Personnel Committee forwarded several recommendations May 4 on wage increases for various county employees, including positions at Jay County Sheriff’s Office, Jay County Highway Department, Jay Emergency Medical Service, Jay County Health Department and Jay County Country Living. Consulting firm Waggoner, Irwin, Scheele & Associates advised pay increases and classification changes for some jobs in those departments, as well as switching to a matrix pay scale for the sheriff’s office.

Consulting firm Waggoner, Irwin, Scheele & Associates is still working on other components for the county, such as creating an official position for chief deputy for Jay County Coroner’s Office.

(Coroner Michael Brewster noted the coroner’s office has used the title of chief deputy for years, but it has never been added into county ordinance or on the pay scale. Chief deputy Brayden Fields is currently paid the same as other deputy coroners.)

Houchins advised council should take home the information and think about it before coming to a decision.

“(If) we are going to keep good, quality people, that’s happy working here … we’ve got to find a way to make (ourselves) competitive with other counties,” said Champ.

“Like I said, I know it’s a lot of money, we may have to make cuts some place else to do it, but at the end of the day, it’s time we do this for our people, because without … good, dependable, experienced employees staying, we’ll never be the county that we should be,” he continued.

Council member Ray Newton added that the county is also losing money as well when it trains employees who leave for another job soon after.

Also Wednesday, council agreed to remove the deadline previously set for American Rescue Plan Act ideas to be submitted. Travis Richards, executive director of Jay County Development Corporation, requested council rethink their decision made in April to require input from the community by June 1.

Jay County has about $3.9 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars. It’s also been selected for the Hoosier Enduring Legacy Program, which makes it eligible for another $1 million through the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA).

Richards presented a timeline of the Hoosier Enduring Legacy Program process. The first community forum is slated for June 13, he noted, with pathway committees meeting through September and the final plan due by the end of December.

“What makes the most sense to me is to really take the rest of this year and step through that planning process, figure out what are our top priorities, and then we can start to match those up with all the funding streams that are out there,” he said.

Although the county will be removing the deadline, Parr said the county should continue looking into its proposed projects. (They include options for child care, housing, a new radio system for local responders and a new multi-faceted facility for Jay Emergency Medical Service, Jay County Health Department and Jay County Coroner’s Office.)

Richards said someone from his office could visit each council meeting to provide updates on the process. (Council members can also be involved in the pathway committees, although none volunteered at the meeting.)

He advised council go through a strategic planning process to figure out what to do with its incoming dollars. Other large funding streams available to the county in the near future include dollars from the East Central Indiana Regional Partnership — it is a group comprised of eight counties that was awarded $15 million in December for projects across the region — remaining economic development dollars from Bitter Ridge Wind Farm and about $5 million in economic development payments that will be coming from planned solar facilities Skycrest Solar (Invenergy), Rose Gold Solar (Leeward Renewable Energy) and Sun Chief Solar (Scout Clean Energy).

“Let’s just step back, take a deep breath and see what comes out of the public engagement process,” he said.

Council agreed — Ted Champ and Harold Towell dissenting — to remove the June 1 deadline for input on how to use the funds.

In other business, council members Matt Minnich, Mike Rockwell, Houchins, Champ, Parr, Newton and Towell:

•OK’d Jay Circuit Court Judge Brian Hutchison to hire two more probation officers. (Because of an employee’s retirement falling in June, the office would have one more probation officer than usual for about a month during training. It won’t require an additional appropriation, Hutchison noted.)

•Made the following additional appropriations: $15,000 to replace parts for an excavator used by Jay County Surveyor’s Office; $12,310 to install a new air conditioning unit at Purdue Extension Office of Jay County; $12,250 to the surveyor’s office to cover the increased price for a previously budgeted truck; $5,000 in grant dollars from Indiana Arts Commission, which covered the cost of post cards distributed to homes in Jay County to gather input from the community during the HELP process; $1,000 for refunds of adult probation fees; $2,000 for doctors and psychiatrists hired for Jay Circuit Court; $1,000 in grant funds for Jay County Health Department to purchase a fridge, a computer monitor and some laptop cases; $800 for health insurance at Jay County Health Department.