Commissioners Bill Walker, Chris Burns and Scott Walk, along with Prosecuting Attorney Caleb Phillips, Assessor Rex Wallace, Recorder of Deeds Lisa Nickerson, Public Administrator Dee O’Riley, County Clerk Melinda Patton, Treasurer Collector Marilyn Jenkins and Sheriff Randy Strong, began meeting earlier this fall about revamping the traditional salary schedule.
“We are experiencing troubles in hiring quality employees,” said Walker. “We haven’t attempted this in the seven years I’ve been here.”
Noting that today’s market for experienced or skilled employees is quite tight, the commissioners called together the officeholders as they are the true managers of each department’s employees. It was first decided the road and bridge department and the sheriff’s department should be addressed separately as those employees come to the county generally with more training, a specific skill set and experience level unique to the department.
After many meetings, the committee decided on October 26 to rely on Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA) to give the valued employees a salary increase each year. The COLA will be universal to all employees and historically it has never been more than two percent with only a few years when no COLA was awarded. The COLA is based on the county’s annual budget of revenues, which are mostly derived from sales taxes. Sales, vehicle, gas and use taxes collected are primarily used for the county’s regular operations including county employee salaries.
The salary schedule of the past had a vertical cell on the spreadsheet that had a step raise every two years for years of service.
“We are interested in keeping our quality employees,” said Walker, “however, it doesn’t take much math to determine the COLA will do that, too.”
The commissioners will set the COLA each year and are estimating the COLA for the 2022 budget, which they will be working on soon, should be in the three to five percent range.
There are 19 county employees who have been with the county for four years and more. There are 24 employees who have worked for the county three years and under. Any new hires from now until January 1 will begin on the old salary schedule and then be advanced with a new wage that will include the COLA.