Aiken County employees woke up Wednesday to the news that they’re going to see a bump in their pay.

Surely, it was a positive way to start the work day.

Aiken County Council made a host of adjustments to the 2013-14 budget at its Tuesday night meeting, and one of the amendments included a one-and-a-half percent cost of living increase for all employees. Another half percent has been set aside for merit increases after annual performance reviews are conducted.

Earlier this month, Aiken County Administrator Clay Killian promised Council members that he would come to them with several options of how to make raises possible.

With the help of staff, Killian presented to Council about $1.2 million of unanticipated additional revenue from delinquent tax collections, personal property taxes and the reinstatement of the Local Government Fund by the State.

Killian added that the County is remaining conservative with its budgeting, more so than it should, but it’s to assure balance and good fiscal responsibility.

So, the County managed to help its employees earn a little extra cash and probably boost their morale a bit as well. And, they did all of this without raising taxes.

Setting aside funds for merit raises is also a smart move. As Councilman Scott Singer said, awarding an employee for going above and beyond sets an incentive for other employees to work hard and offer their best while on the job.

This could be a very positive sign for things to come for the County. The recession has hurt local governments across the country, and Aiken County has certainly felt the pain.

With more competitive salaries, the County can attract some outstanding employees to fill vacant positions and the pay increase will hopefully keep those high performers on staff for a while. Maintaining experienced people who are already trained saves the County time and money. Skilled employees are a valuable asset to any organization.

A government entity is only as strong as the people who work for it, and making the effort to improve compensation for employees can go a long way.