What people earn
Cities and counties budget their money differently, mainly because they offer different services and have different operating procedures. The city employs 194 people, while the county has 155 full-time employees. The city handles utilities, and while the county has more roads to repair, those roads are not as heavily trafficked.
Comparing the two is difficult. But one thing they have in common is that they both have advocates who negotiate their employees’ pay increases.
The offices of the county supervisors, treasurer, auditor and recorder, sheriff and county attorney appoint members to the Compensation Board to advocate for them. Those members make recommendations to the Marshall County Board of Supervisors who use those recommendations when deciding whether to approve pay increases for those county employees.
Meanwhile, city employees belong to one of five unions. Those unions sit down with a labor attorney and the city’s human resources director to negotiate new contracts. Contracts are typically 3 years.
Jill Petermeier, HR director for the city, said that contract length is typical of what she saw when she worked in the private sector. She said negotiations typically start 8 to 9 months prior to the contract’s end. The city’s current contract expires in July 2014, so the city will begin negotiations in the fall.
“Typically, you are aware of some of the concerns because someone has already brought it up,” Petermeier said. “I think you establish a good working relationship. So, they (the unions) know that you can’t give an increase that is not reasonable.”
Randy Wetmore, city administrator, said negotiating every 3 years helps the city budget because it knows what its costs will be in the upcoming years. When looking at pay increases, the city compares salaries to those in similar sized communities across the state.
Tom McCoy, chair of the Compensation Board, said the board also compares salaries for similar positions.
The supervisors approved only 8 percent of the recommended pay increases that the Compensation Board recommended for the offices earlier this year. The supervisors did not accept a pay increase. McCoy said that in his 15 years on the board, the supervisors have rarely taken the board’s advice on pay increases, except, he said, when the board recommended no increases.
“We are supposed to compare that job to the private and public sector,” he said. “It’s crazy. It’s ridiculous. Our elected officials are even more far behind than they were.”
McCoy said the recommendations are a way to keep the salaries of those represented by the board on par with like jobs. Tax payers need to pay these officials more to make their jobs attractive, which will provide incentive for top-notch candidates to vie for those positions, he said. Although the county employees for whom the board advocates do a good job, McCoy said they are likely to leave unless the county pays them a fair wage.
The Compensation Board continually recommends increases because the supervisors rarely follow them, McCoy said, putting those officials further behind each year the supervisors ignore the recommendations. When compared to similar positions, the sheriff, treasurer, county attorney and auditor and recorder, earn lower wages than their counterparts in both the private and public sectors, he said.
For instance, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the state average for an auditor and recorder is more than $8,000 higher than what the county pays it auditor and recorder. And the other positions are not on par either, he said.
“You might look at a treasurer as a CFO,” he said. “Are we in trouble financially? Why not get them paid fair?”
Although Supervisor Deane Adams motioned to approve half the recommended raises, neither of the other two supervisors seconded that motion, and they unanimously approved cutting 92 percent of the recommended raises, citing budget constraints.