Salary report recommends raises for county employees

April 02, 2003|by TARA REILLY

A Minnesota-based firm recommended Tuesday that most of Washington County's 630 full-time employees receive at least 2 percent raises to be competitive with employers in surrounding areas.

The firm's salary report drew criticism from at least two County Commissioners, and one commissioner said he would vote against any raise proposed for the next fiscal year.

"We can't afford it," Commissioner John C. Munson said Tuesday night. "For the cost of living, I think everyone in the county is adequately paid."


Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell said after the meeting he thought the study showed that county salaries are in line with the state averages.

Roger Scott, senior vice president of Springsted Incorporated's Virginia Beach, Va., office, said a 2 percent raise would cost the county $422,000. The increases would affect 475 of the county's 635 full-time employees.

Springsted, with headquarters in Minnesota, based the need for the raises on several factors, including a comparison of current county wages with other public and private businesses.

Scott presented the findings of the $61,530 study at Tuesday's commissioners meeting. He said one county option would be to not increase salaries, but said that likely would have a negative impact on employee morale and recruiting and retainment efforts.

The raises would be in addition to annual increases provided by the county if the commissioners adopted the study, Wivell said.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said the raises would have to be phased in, because he didn't think the county could afford increases all at once.

Some of the many positions recommended to receive pay raises include the county administrator, county clerk, office assistants, the Economic Development Commission director, sheriff's deputies, the county attorney and assistant county attorney.

Munson said he was against all pay raises for fiscal year 2004, including the annual increases employees usually receive, because of budget constraints and anticipated cuts from the state.

Munson and Wivell said they thought the study wasn't thorough, and Wivell said he thought the firm made a mistake in figuring out costs associated with the raises because it used an incorrect pay scale.

He said that in some cases, the study recommended increases for positions that pay more than the state averages.

Snook, who said he thought the study provided an in-depth analysis, said the county would discuss whether to take the advice in the study.

"I think it met my expectations," Snook said.

Assistant Human Resources Director Dee Hawbaker said she thought the study was well-done.

Scott said the county might want to consider putting in place a pay scale that includes step increases.

The county operates on a pay scale that doesn't have steps. Pay levels are classified by minimum, midway and maximum pay designations. Annual raises are determined by the commissioners and based on merit. Those raises usually come out to about 3 percent a year, Hawbaker said.

Employees have said the county's current pay system makes it hard to tell what their salaries will be several years down the road, because the scale doesn't contain step increases. They have said it takes a long time before employees reach the scale's midway point.

The county agreed in November 2002 to hire Springsted to address those concerns in the study.

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