How many of Mississippi’s roughly 26,000 state employees will receive raises and the amounts they receive will not be known until later this year.

Brittany Frederick, a spokesperson with the state personnel board, said there is currently a process to determine “a fair market” pay scale for state employees based on salaries for similar positions in other states and in the private sector. Until that process is complete, exact information on which state employees will receive pay raises and how much will not be known.

“We are currently in the phase of Project SEC where we ensure every state employee is properly classified,” she said in an emailed response to questions from Mississippi Today. “We must make sure employees are classified accurately, so they can be compensated fairly and equitably. Later this summer, we will establish market-based, data-driven salary recommendations, and the pay increases referenced in each agency’s appropriations bill will be based on these recommendations.”

Late in the 2021 session, which ended in April, the Legislature announced it was adding funds to the budget of each agency to provide up to a 3% raise for employees. That addition was based on the outcome of reworking what is known as the state’s Variable Compensation Plan, which is the mechanism of placing a fair market value on each position in state government.

According to information provided by the staff of the Legislative Budget Committee, $6.9 million has been set aside for the state employee pay raises for the upcoming fiscal year, starting July 1. But to limit the cost of the pay raise in its first year, it will not go into effect until Jan. 1, 2022. In addition, $23 million has been set aside to cover the rising costs in the health insurance plan that covers state employees, teachers and higher education faculty.

During the 2021 session, teachers received a pay raise of about $1,000 per year, costing $51.5 million. Money for university staff pay raises ($9.1 million) and for community college staff ($3.3 million) also was factored into the budget. The money for the higher education pay raise is enough to provide 1% across the board salary increases, but chief executives have the option to award the raises based on merit instead of across the board.

READ MORE: Pay raises for Mississippi higher ed employees: Too little, too late?

Even with the pending pay raises, Mississippi will be near the bottom nationally in terms of compensation for public employees, both those working for the multiple state agencies and those who work in education.

According to the Mississippi Personnel Board, the average pay for state employees is $39,896 per year compared to the average for the four adjoining states of $49,392. Additionally, Mississippi’s average pay for K-12 teachers is the lowest of any state in the nation. Higher education officials have said for years an ongoing problem for them is the low pay for their staff compared to pay in other Southern states.

The total state-support budget for the new fiscal year beginning July 1 is $6.6 billion, or $243.5 million more than the budget for the current fiscal year.

State revenue growth — spurred to a large extent by federal COVID-19 relief packages — has been strong, leading legislators to be able to increase funding for multiple state agencies and for education during the recent session.

The overall revenue for the upcoming fiscal year also includes $25 million from lottery proceeds diverted to education.

The first $80 million in state lottery revenue goes to transportation needs. Any amount above that goes to education. This year lottery revenue exceeded the $80 million mark in March. The Mississippi Legislature enacted a state lottery in August 2018.

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Bobby Harrison, Mississippi Today’s senior capitol reporter, covers politics, government and the Mississippi State Legislature. He also writes a weekly news analysis which is co-published in newspapers statewide. A native of Laurel, Bobby joined our team June 2018 after working for the North Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo since 1984. He is president of the Mississippi Capitol Press Corps Association and works with the Mississippi State University Stennis Institute to organize press luncheons. Bobby has a bachelor's in American Studies from the University of Southern Mississippi and has received multiple awards from the Mississippi Press Association, including the Bill Minor Best Investigative/In-depth Reporting and Best Commentary Column.