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More raises "raise" questions for commissioners

by Karin L. Nauber

Being significantly out of market is a problem for two of Todd County’s department heads—the Health and Human Services Director and the Public Works Director.

To resolve this issue, the commissioners voted to approve  market grade overrides for both positions.

According to the discussion that took place prior to approving the resulting increase for HHS Director Jackie Och’s position, Och is about 15% under market.

The board action that was approved for the HHS director position stated, in part: 

“In talking with Springsted the maximum number of points has been provided for this position. They did note the position is significantly out of market and recommended a market grade override in order to adjust for the lower pay scale Todd County currently has in place. 

“Todd County would have a difficult time hiring the position with the same qualifications and experience if we were to have to hire in the market for this position. 

“The Personnel Committee has recommended a market grade override and a move of the position Grade from 18 to 19 and placement at Step 7.”

The increase will be effective January 7, 2018 and amounts to a $1.39 increase per hour. 

This will put the HHS Director position at $49.05. The position currently pays $47.66 and is a 3% increase, according to County Coordinator Joe Hatch (via e-mail after the meeting).

Along with the 2.5% increase that was approved across the board, the HHS Director position received a 5.5% increase from 2017 to 2018.

There were many questions raised related to the increase.

Hatch told the commissioners that these increases [for the HHS Director and Public Works Director] would get them closer to market. He said that the increases were in the budget.

Commissioner David Kircher asked if the personnel committee had made this recommendation?

Hatch said that the board actions had been reviewed by the personnel committee and it was recommended.

Commissioner Barb Becker stated that at their meeting on December 19, they had discussed having work sessions on looking at how they made salary adjustments and using different criteria for comparisons.

Hatch said that they had and that he would be looking at better comparisons and using the data to figure out where they are in the market and see if they need to make changes.

“I do believe the HHS Director and Public Works Director will still be significantly under market [even with the increases],” said Hatch.

In a telephone conversation after the meeting, Hatch said both position’s salaries will still be around 10% under market.

He said that the challenge was making sure  the pay was equitable to the market and internally which neither measure is at this time.

“We will get closer with this, but it’s not perfect,” said Hatch.

Kircher said that he had suggested holding the work sessions to work on a system of how to  come up with salary adjustments.

He questioned if the salary increase was in the budget.

It was stated that it was.

“We need to come up with a consistent way  to come up with salary increases,” said Kircher.

He suggested that some of the criteria might include tenure, education and experience.

He added that market could be another one, but that he was “nervous” about that as Todd County is a small county in the midst of larger ones.

Commissioner Randy Neumann said that he had given Hatch a list of counties that were similar size to Todd County. He also mentioned that very few counties of our size had the combination position of social services director and public health director rolled into one.

He said that the combining of the position was supposed to save them money, but that he had not seen any reports on whether it saved any money.

“How can we support something if we don’t know?” questioned Neumann.

Hatch said that they will need to compare with other rural counties. He said they will make adjustments when they can.

Kircher pointed out that Morrison County recently combined their social services and public health departments.

There was less discussion related to the grade and step increase for the Public Works Director position which was also approved at a total of an 11.5% increase or a $4.12 an hour increase.  This included the 6% grade raise and 3% step raise along with the 2.5% Cost of Living Allowance.

The Public Works Director’s current hourly rate is $44.93 and is moving to $49.05.

This was not the original action which only included a $2.69 per hour increase. However, Kircher moved that the Public Works Director position be at the same grade and step as the HHS Director.

The action that the board approved reads, in part: 

“The position is the lowest paid in the State of Minnesota.” 

 “In talking with Springsted the maximum number of points has been provided for this position. They did note the position is significantly out of market and recommended a market grade override in order to adjust for the lower pay scale Todd County currently has in place. 

“Additionally the current Public Works Director has significant experience and Todd County would have a difficult time hiring the position with the same qualifications and experience if we were to have to hire in the market for this position.”

The increase will take effect January 7, 2018.

Kircher asked again if this increase, was in the budget?

Hatch said it was.

Auditor/Treasurer Denise Gaida asked if that was with the addition?

Hatch again said it was.

Prior to the meeting, Och and this reporter were talking and she said that the increases were about equity in the position and that it was not about the person in the position, but about the position itself.

In other business:

• Approved the Hands of Hope lease agreement for 2018 for office space in the Main Street Government Center at a cost of $4000 annually plus reimbursements for the telephone and network connection. They have been in this space since September of 2015.

• Approved the designation of the following polling place for the Todd County Absentee Precinct and the city of Swanville’s Mail Ballot Precinct for elections conducted in 2018 to be: Todd County Auditor-Treasurer’s Office at 215 1st Ave S, Suite 201, Long Prairie, MN 56347

Kircher asked  about the one mail ballot for the city of Swanville.

Gaida explained that one parcel located in the city of Swanville had been annexed into Todd County.

• Approved the transfer of funds from the General Fund to the ditch fund for work on County Ditch 18. The repair project will be completed in 2018. 

The County Ditch 18 Fund lacks sufficient funds to pay the project expenses and special assessments will be collected in future years to reimburse these expenses. A total of $300,000 was transferred.

• The board heard a brief presentation from Tri-County Hospital Ambulance Director Mike Ittner,  regarding the “Stop the Bleed” nationwide campaign. He presented the county with five kits that will help stop major bleeding.

According to the Homeland Security website the Stop the Bleed nationwide campaign was “launched in October of 2015 by the White House. Stop the Bleed is a national awareness campaign and a call to action. Stop the Bleed is intended to cultivate grassroots efforts that encourage bystanders to become trained, equipped, and empowered to help in a bleeding emergency before professional help arrives.”

The idea is that more lives can be saved if major bleeding can be stopped before the professionals arrive.

• Approved the 2018 Solid Waste Enterprise Fund Budget. The budget shows revenues of $2,128,714 with expenses of $2,220,003 for a negative of $91,289. This is better than the 2017 budget which had a negative of $306,131.

Becker asked if the budget had gone through the finance committee before bringing it to the board for approval?

Because it is an enterprise fund, it does not have to go through the finance committee.

Becker asked about planned purchases.

Transfer Station Supervisor Jeremy Clasemann said that they have a Bobcat and a dozer in the budget.

Neumann said that they are hoping to have a new director in place by March 1.

“You’ve been out there on your own since Mike Hanen passed away,” said Neumann.

Hanen was the solid waste director.

• The board approved the  AFSCME Health and Human Services tentative union agreement. Highlights of the changes include reducing maximum banked comp hours, health insurance and 2.5% general wage increases for 2018-2020.

Hatch said that the county had reached agreement with five out of the six unions. He said that the LELS Deputies union was going to a scheduled mediation, but that he felt confident an agreement would be reached.

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