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November 16
Wake County Commissioners Adopt Living Wage

Establishes minimum annual salary of $28,080, or $13.50 per hour, for eligible County employees

Seventy-five Wake County employees will see their pay increased starting next month, after the Board of Commissioners voted unanimously during its regular meeting Monday, Nov. 16, to adopt a living wage. A living wage allows people to meet their basic needs and maintain a safe, decent standard of living within their community.

"Our action today creates the most robust living wage policy of any county in the state," said Commissioner Matt Calabria, who represents District 2. "I am proud to be part of a board that values its employees and wants to make important policy changes to help improve their quality of life."

Commissioner Calabria requested that staff research the feasibility of instituting a living wage in Wake County and bring the results of their evaluation before the board for consideration.

The board's vote officially amended the county's personnel ordinance to institute a living wage for county employees who work more than 1,040 regularly scheduled hours annually. Temporary employees are not eligible for the living wage, because they work less than 1,040 hours each year.

The County adopted and used the Universal Living Wage calculation developed by the Universal Living Wage Organization to determine what its living wage should be. The calculation is based on the idea that a person who works full time (40 hours per week) should be able to afford a one-bedroom apartment and meet their basic needs.

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, no more than 30 percent of a person's gross income should be spent on housing.

Taking into account the high cost of living in the Raleigh-Cary Metropolitan Statistical Area, the Universal Living Wage calculation resulted in a living wage of $14.88 per hour for Wake County, which was rounded up to $15 per hour. In establishing the minimum hourly pay rate, the county applied a $1.50 per hour credit for employer-provided health insurance, making the pay rate $13.50 per hour. The pay increase will go into effect on Dec. 1, 2015.

Currently, 75 employees will benefit from the living wage. Their positions range from library assistants who will see pay increases of less than $1,000 annually to animal shelter attendants who will receive up to $3,432 more annually in their pay checks.

"We see turnover fairly frequently among our shelter attendants, because it's historically been a low-paying job that requires a lot of hard work," said Dr. Jennifer Federico, Director of Wake County Animal Services. "A higher wage will not only help us recruit more qualified and experienced people for these positions, but it will also help us retain them, resulting in better care for our animals."

It will cost the county $93,000 annually to implement the living wage for those 75 employees. Overall, the county employs about 4,000 people.

"We're pleased that the number of employees who will benefit from the living wage is relatively low, because it shows that our market analysis is working," said Angela Crawford, Wake County Human Resources Director. "We regularly research what the fair market rate is for each one of our positions, and the living wage data proves our efforts are effective."

As part of the living wage adoption, the Board directed the County manager to conduct an annual review of the living wage calculation in conjunction with the annual budget. Based on the findings of that process, the living wage will be adjusted as needed to reflect increases in the local housing market.


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