Meridian Star

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October 15, 2013

State's workforce aging, numbers flat

JACKSON —

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — One-third of Mississippi state government's workforce will be eligible for retirement in the next five years.

Deanne Mosley, executive director of the state Personnel Board, said the employees nearing retirement age are many of the state's leaders and supervisors.

"They have an incredible amount of institutional knowledge," Mosley told legislative leaders recently.

One of the issues that could impact whether state employees retire when eligible is money. If the employees received a raise, it could provide incentive for them to continue working to increase their retirement benefits.

Essentially, the pay of state workers has been flat for the past five years. During the five-year period, the roughly 32,000 workers covered by the Personnel Board have averaged earning near $34,500 annually. And with a few exceptions, state employees have not had a raise since 2007.

In July 2006, the average salary of state workers was $30,746. It jumped to $34,099 in July 2007 after the Legislature voted on a pay raise earlier that year. The average has been hovering near that mark since then.

Rep. Preston Sullivan, D-Okolona, a member of the Legislative Budget Committee, said he hopes the Legislature can provide a pay raise within the next two years for state workers.

"It is a concern for me," Sullivan said. "It should be a concern for everyone. We have to fund education, too. We just have to prioritize."

Sullivan said he is hopeful because tax collections — after declining during the economic slowdown — have been growing at a relatively strong pace for the past couple of years, meaning more funds are available for the Legislature to appropriate. And for the first quarter of the current fiscal year, collections are 12 percent above the previous year.

Sullivan said he is concerned that the fight in Washington over funding the federal government and raising the debt limit could result in another recession and another decline in state tax collections.

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