FREEPORT, Fla. (WMBB) – Walton County employees will be going home with a little more in their pocket next paycheck.

In an unprecedented move, Walton County commissioners voted to give every county employee a 5% raise, effective immediately.

The unexpected mid-year raise for all Walton County employees comes at a time when inflation is at its highest rate in decades.

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) and Producer Price Index (PPI) have inflation at 8.5%.

This has caused many businesses to respond.

“There’s places that give sign-on bonuses. There is, I’ve been hearing, $12 to $18 an hour,” investment advisor and ambassador with the Walton Area Chamber of Commerce William Blanken said. “People have been giving raises after 30 days if the employee stays. People have been giving raises to fellow staff if they bring someone on and their friend stays 30 days so the raises are there and the prices are going up.”

In the county commission meeting Tuesday night, Walton County Commission Chairman Mike Barker said it helps no one if they count doesn’t have the employees to do the jobs.

“There’s no doubt it’s needed and to say that they don’t deserve more, they do because other places are paying more,” Barker said. “So we either retain them or we lose them, and if we lose them, we lose services, so the citizens will lose if we lose employees.”

Commissioners said there are about 20 positions open countywide right now, and that money has not been expended, so they made the numbers work to reallocate that money to existing employees.

“It’s a lot more expensive to train new personnel, so the county taking the money they already had set aside for hiring new employees, they are actually putting it into the retention of their employees, which gives them a better view of their county they are working for and a better outlook on their future with the county,” Blanken said.

News 13 spoke with county employees who said they are thankful for the raise, as it will help them catch up as inflation has increased.

Wages will again be discussed when the new budget year rolls around in October, with commissioners hoping they can again institute raises.