With a recent 4-1 vote, the Richland County Board of Commissioners approved a pay increase for all county employees.
The increase will bring 19 employees’ salaries to an across the board standard, as well as include a 2.5 percent cost of living adjustment for all employees.
Ninety-seven employees, not including social service employees, will be affected.
“Everyone who’s below minimum would be brought to minimum,” Richland County Auditor Leslie Hage said Tuesday, Aug. 6.
The dissenting vote came from Commissioner Tim Campbell, who spoke from the perspective of an affected employee.
“My only concern with the minimum is I’ve been working my butt off,” Campbell said. “I thought I’ve done a pretty good job. You guys have told me you’re gonna look at the pay scale. I’ve been doing my job, been a pretty good employee for 12 years and now you’re telling me I’m only as good as the minimum?”
The pay decision came following job classification and job compensation studies conducted by Gallagher Consulting Group.
“I’ve been talking to department heads, one by one. They’ve more or less been saying ‘You’d have been better off if you didn’t do it,’” Campbell said.
The studies provided necessary information, according to Commissioner Nathan Berseth.
“Everyone says, ‘you’re way underpaying, you’re way underpaying, you’re way underpaying.’ Gallagher verified we’re not underpaying,” Berseth said.
Tough decisions need to be made, Commissioner Rollie Ehlert said. It’s a situation without a complete win either way, Commissioner Dan Thompson added. Nevertheless, Campbell warned of a potential erosion of morale.
“They think that just to get to the minimum, that’s what they’re worth. And that hurts,” Campbell said.
Implementing the pay increases will cost $257,040, according to information Hage shared. While that amount is more than the $253,000 budgeted to do so, Hage said she wasn’t overly concerned.
“I’m totally comfortable with implementing this,” she said.
The commissioners reviewed alternate proposals, including one which would be implemented over two years. It would get employee salaries to an across the board midpoint standard, in addition to providing the cost of living adjustment. The proposal would cost $280,165 in the first year and $145,405 in the second year.
Ehlert, who said he doesn’t like “minimum,” “midpoint” and “maximum” terms, said Richland County has been compliant with points made by Gallagher.
“It’s not like we were completely out of whack,” Ehlert said.
While Hage said she is comfortable with implementing the approved pay increases, she did say the situation should be looked at in 2020.
The next commissioners meeting is scheduled for 8 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 20 at the Richland County Courthouse, 418 Second Ave. N. in Wahpeton.