AIKEN - In an attempt to keep clerks from leaving Aiken County Magistrate Court offices for similar, higher-paying jobs, Judge Rodger Edmonds took a backdoor route.
"We started approaching this from a different angle, going through each individual councilman," Judge Edmonds said.
His strategy worked. Aiken County Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to upgrade magistrate court employees and include them in an already-planned salary study for county employees.
He said clerk pay increases had been planned for this year's budget but were cut.
The employees will see an increase varying from $750 to $2,400 a year, depending on seniority, Judge Edmonds said.
"We got a little bit (Tuesday) night, but once it's compared to other jobs in the county and other jobs in the private sector, hopefully we'll be getting a little more on down the line," he said.
There are eight magistrate offices in Aiken County, plus traffic court. These offices employ 21 clerks and four enforcement officers, all of whom have been denied pay increases for 11 years.
"Some of these people are paid less than the custodians," Councilwoman LaWana McKenzie said.
It ultimately was the clerks' turnover rate that brought the issue to a head, Judge Edmonds said.
"They're transferring to the clerk of courts office or the solicitor's office doing the work they have been trained to do in our courts," he said. "We hate to lose good employees. They are going elsewhere for more money, and I can't blame them for that."
The increased wages will not create a budget shortfall. The raises will be drawn from the $27,382 the magistrate's office already budgeted for a bond court judge who resigned in February.
Reach Carly Phillips at (803) 648-1395.