Butler County doles out $220,000 in ‘equity’ raises

Butler County Commission Chambers inside Government Services Center on High Street in Hamilton. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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Butler County Commission Chambers inside Government Services Center on High Street in Hamilton. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Following a wage study update, the Butler County commissioners doled out some substantial raises on Monday, in an effort to right-size their salaries with their counterparts in the market and internally.

County Administrator Judi Boyko told the Journal-News the total for all the non-union wage adjustments under the commissioners’ direct control is around $220,000. The highest increase at the top management level was $11,283 for Chris Hacker, the director of assets, procurement and projects. Hacker joined the county in March 2021 earning an annual salary of $90,100. When performance raises were given in January his salary jumped to $93,717 and now stands at $105,000.

In all 71 employees received raises based on a market update by consultant Clemans Nelson. Eric Fletcher, the county’s Information Services director received a $5,423 pay bump to $114,000, up from his merit increase to $108,577 in January.

Boyko said Hacker’s salary adjustment was given for a number of reasons, not the least of which is he performing duties well beyond the job description he was hired for.

“There were several of the department directors who based on our surveys, we acknowledged they were significantly unpaid,” she said. “Either based on their tenure or based on their scope of responsibilities and Chris fell under the latter, the scope of responsibilities. We hired him I think at a rate that was probably not market-driven at the time, we got lucky.”

When he was hired, Dixon told the Journal-News Hacker needed to earn his keep. Boyko has reported earlier Hacker has produced a $45,000-per-year savings through the competitive bidding process and $50,000 by performing many procurement-related services in-house.

Boyko noted the wage study has only been adjusted once, slightly, in 2018 since the commissioners switched to a pay-for-performance model in 2013.

“Recent trends in the economy and workforce response to the treatment of wages has been exacerbated by the pandemic and market adjustments are necessary to continue to merit our employees but also to attract equally important retain the valued employees that we do have,” Boyko said.

Commissioner Don Dixon told the Journal-News they also needed to address the revolving door that has cost them a number of high-level positions, like the finance director slot that has been bare since Angel Burton quit in February. She was making $118,158 when she left and now the range is $94,000 to $139,776 with the 2% hike to the minimum and maximum ranges as recommended by the wage study update.

Dixon said there are currently 27 vacancies within their departments.

“When you look at the overall plan, what we’ve agreed to do is to try to keep our salaries competitive, we don’t have a product to sell, if you’re expecting to make a gazillion dollars you’re not going to do it in county government, that’s for sure,” Dixon said. “But we try to offer a fair wage package, like our healthcare. So you put all that stuff together and I think we’re in the ballpark.”

Explore$420,000 in raises will go to Butler County employees

The county originally paid Clemans Nelson $100,000 to compare the county’s pay wages to other similarly situated jurisdictions and the private sector. When they took on the job, there were five pay scales with 62 pay ranges and each pay range had between five and nine steps. There are now only 13 ranges.

Officials estimated the county would save more than $18.5 million over 10 years eliminating steps and multiple raises in a year.

“I believe it’s probably more than that, what we’ve saved, but it would take a mathematician to get the exact number but it’s been a lot of money,” Dixon said. “We’ve gone from raises that sometimes went for three and four times a year. There was never a 2% raise given that I can recall, it was always five, 10, 15. We knew if it continued that way we couldn’t make payroll in six months. So how much has it saved, millions without a doubt.”

After the initial wage study the commissioners adopted a two-part performance pay formula that calls for pay hikes in the 1% to 3% range added to an employee’s base pay which they refer to as part A and another 1% to 3% percent available in lump sum payments they call part B.

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%.

Boyko said any employee who received an “equity adjustment” of 5% or more will not eligible for a Part A raise next year but can receive the lump sum if their performance warrants it.

In January the commissioners approved nearly $420,000 to reward 137 non-union employees. Commissioner T.C. Rogers said the wage adjustments are warranted especially in the economic environment today and will allow them to weather a recession if it comes, “keep in mind Butler County is doing better than most counties, not only in the state of Ohio but in the nation.”

“As you’ve heard on the news it’s tough to hire people, it’s also tough to retain people. People don’t want to work here just because Don and I are nice guys,” Rogers said.

“These wages that came back are comparisons with other counties, cities, making them apples to apples if you can, we do these things to be what we think is fair. But really can’t go on the really extreme wages which some people are getting hired at because of what’s going to happen if we have a recession.”

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