Traditionally the commissioners set a 2% pool of money from a given department’s total payroll for eligible, non-union employees for the base increases and an equal amount for the lump sum incentive bonuses. This year they increased the pools of money to 3%.
Before the commissioners approved the raises, County Administrator Judi Boyko said the total available allocation was $540,000 but only 78% of the available pool was doled out for performance pay so about $120,000 was left on the table.
“So the department directors really did endeavor to really make this based on a performance-based model,” Boyko said. “Out of the 137 there was a slightly skewed bell curve in that 53.3% received 2.5 to 3% and the average performance award for Part A was 2.45%.”
The other offices holders and independent boards approve their own raise distributions and most of them budgeted a 3% increase for salaries for this year. The total amount budgeted for wages — not including benefits — is $107.67 million for all funds for about 2,000 employees., the general fund budgeted salaries total $53.5 million.
Only 11 employees received the full extent of available merit raises, nine received 3% on their base and another 3% in lump sums paid quarterly. The other two people have hit the maximum of their pay range so they received a 6% lump sum merit raise.
Commissioner Cindy Carpenter questioned the 5% and 6% lump sum awards.
“It just makes me uncomfortable in Part B that we have people getting 6%, it just appears to me they were assessed differently,” she said.
Carpenter could not be reached to clarify her statement, but the merit pay program has always operated in this fashion.
Development Director David Fehr received the highest lump sum amount at $6,250 because he has hit his salary cap at $125,000, so his salary for this year is $131,250. Employees who started working for the county after July 1, 2021 such as Assistant County Administrator Scott Timmer won’t be eligible for a raise until after his one-year anniversary. Employees who were promoted last year, such as Job and Family Services Executive Director Julie Gilbert and Children Services Director Shannon Glendon, were not eligible for Part A because they were promoted after July and therefore were limited to up to a 3% lump sum, according to Boyko.
The county’s highest paid employee is Boyko, earning $179,756, she was not given a raise Monday because the commissioners evaluate her and award her raise separately. She is entering her third year at the helm of the county and received a 4.5% raise last year, which was essentially a two-year hike because the commissioners overlooked her raise in the height of the pandemic.
Boyko told the Journal-News she recommended upping the pool of money this year for a variety of reasons.
“In light of the inflationary increases, in light of the demand of the workforce — there’s an employees shortage out there — so as an ability to retain and I think as we continue to work through the salary study and continue to bring the commissioners the results of that study in the next couple of month, I believe we are under market in some of our positions,” Boyko said.
The county is sitting in an enviable position with revenues expected to reach $116 million versus expenses of $107 million and a very healthy $119.7 million beginning bank balance this year. The commissioners also just approved an $18.5 million property tax rollback for next year which will save taxpayers about $67 per $100,000 in assessed value.
“We analyzed the market conditions and the present and future balances of our financial plan and we feel we made the best decision we could at this time,” Commissioner T.C. Rogers told the Journal-News.
The commissioners embarked on a pay policy overhaul after the Great Recession when about 500 county employees were laid off. Double-digit raises and multiple pay hikes in a year used to be the norm in the county. The highest payroll in the past 20 years was back in 2008 when there were 2,596 county workers who were paid $136.6 million. After the belt-tightening took place the number of employees had dropped to 2,276 earning $122 million in 2012.
The commissioners implemented the pay-for-performance model in 2014 and Commissioner Don Dixon said the two-pronged approach gives them a safety net when times are bad.
“This two-tiered approach, base and then on top of the base Part B allows us to adjust that second half of any increases to, if the economy turns down we don’t have to lay those people off we can adjust the budget,” Dixon said. “It has literally d=saved millions of the dollars to the taxpayers and it gives job security o our employees.”