MILTON — Forty-three Santa Rosa commission employees resigned within the last 12 months and six retired, according to commission staff. For employee retention, the board will vote Thursday on moving merit pay increases for county employees to include the pay period that begins July 30.

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MILTON — Forty-three Santa Rosa commission employees resigned within the last 12 months and six retired, according to commission staff. For employee retention, the board will vote Thursday on moving merit pay increases for county employees to include the pay period that begins July 30.

Pushing 554 employees' fiscal-year 2018 merit increases to include August and September of this year would cost approximately $157,143.00. The cost of merit increases for FY 2018 will be $1.3 million, according to the Budget Department.

For employees who have already received five merit increases since they started with the county, they will receive a 2.5 percent increase. Those who have not received five merit increases will get a 5 percent increase, according to Commissioner Sam Parker.

Employees to receive these raises exclude elected officials.

FY 2018 starts Oct. 1. While the board has not passed the new budget, the county employee merit increase is in the draft budget, according to Santa Rosa County Public Information Officer Brandi Whitehurst.

The number of employees who have left in the last 12 months amounts to 9 percent of the county’s staff.

“One of those six who retired,” Parker said, “was one of our very experienced building inspectors … who left for better pay. We’ve also lost, within the last 12 months, a 9-1-1 operator, a dispatcher that went to the sheriff’s office for better pay since they’re a step above."

While the board has approved early raises for Santa Rosa Sheriff's Office deputies, Commission Chairman Rob Williamson and Commissioner Don Salter cautioned against setting a precedent for starting pay increases before the new fiscal year.

Companies in the private sector generally do not implement merit increases before the new budget begins, according to Salter.

“(You can) get into a popularity contest," he said. "So, I would encourage us to refrain from doing these types of things. Build them in the budget. When the new budget kicks in, so do the merit increases.”

The additional $157,143 would come from general reserves or reserve for contingencies. The cost to move the deputy pay increases earlier came from money the sheriff’s office was already returning to the county.

Despite some concerns, the board voted, without objection, to move the early merit increase issue to Thursday's meeting.