Money saved in health insurance costs could provide several Calvert County Government employees what is tantamount to a Christmas bonus. During the Tuesday, Nov. 15 meeting of the Calvert County Commissioners, a public hearing was held regarding a proposal from the Department of Finance and Budget to grant a one-time incentive payment of $750 to fulltime government employees and $375 to part-time employees who meet eligibility requirements. The incentive pay would be added to employees’ Dec. 15 paychecks.

“Funds for the incentive payment come from budget savings realized through the careful use of county resources,” a memo from the Department of Finance and Budget stated. “In the fiscal year 2012 budget, we are projecting a savings of approximately $540,000 in healthcare expenses.”

Department of Finance and Budget Director Tim Hayden said the county’s elected officials are ineligible for the bonus.

“I think these funds could be spent in other areas,” said Victoria Stewart, who identified herself as a federal worker. Stewart told the commissioners she hasn’t had a raise in four years.

“Your employees are feeling the crunch,” said Ruthie Buckler, who represented the employees’ representation committee. “Morale is down and a one-time increase in pay is a step in the right direction.”

Commissioner Evan K. Slaughenhoupt Jr. [R] noted federal and state government workers have likely gone without raises for a long period of time due to “reckless, silly spending” on the part of government leaders. Slaughenhoupt said Calvert’s leadership has been fiscally conservative. “We have wonderful employees at the county level,” he added. “This is a thank you. This is not a pay raise.”

“This was not an overnight decision,” said Commissioner Pat Nutter [R]. “It was carefully discussed.”

Commissioner Gerald W. “Jerry” Clark [R] reminded the public that the money saved was a reimbursement county government will receive because employees have not maximized what was paid for healthcare expenses.

“I probably have the reputation for not supporting employee raises,” Commissioners’ President Susan Shaw [R] admitted. She conceded that many county government employees are working longer hours. “They are under tremendous financial pres