County approves new salary schedule for employees
Portage County Supervisors made a move to bring county employees more in line with average market wages, which for many means a raise.
After more than a year of study and development – as well as five amendments – Portage County Board of Supervisors Tuesday, July 19, approved 20 to 2 a resolution to adopt a new salary schedule for non-represented employees that will bring many of the county’s positions in line with neighboring counties and similar positions across the state as far as wages are concerned.
Voting for the resolution were Meleesa Johnson, Dave Medin, Julie Morrow, “Bud” Flood, Dan Dobratz, Larry Sipiorski, Bo DeDeker, Bob Gifford, Stan Potocki, Don Butkowski, Don Jankowski, Allen Haga, Chair Phil Idsvoog, Jerry Walters, Larry Raikowski, Charles Gussel, Jeanne Dodge, Matt Jacowski, Barry Jacowski and Gerry Zastrow. Those voting against the resolution were Tom Mallison and Chris Doubek.
Supervisors Jim Gifford, Dale O’Brien and James Zdroik were excused.
The schedule also will include longevity dollars and Highway Department workers, after amendments for both those items passed on the floor.
With so many changes to the presented schedule, Human Resources and Finance departments will work together to reconfigure the schedule and present the revised plan at a later meeting for implementation in September. Questions surrounding legality of highway employees’ inclusion, cost to implement and how the longevity affects the step advancement remain.
The cost to implement the schedule initially was pegged at just more than $350,000, with an estimated annual commitment of $726,575, according to the Finance Department. Those numbers will change with the amendments.
Two positions, the executive assistant and emergency management director, were pulled from the study and sent back to committee for further review. Idsvoog said he thought the move was warranted since one of the positions called for a wage adjustment increase of $18,000.
The first amendment to the resolution asked to include longevity in the individual’s base wage, and then at the individual’s anniversary when they reach the next step in the schedule they would move forward two steps. The amendment passed 21 to 1.
The second amendment was for highway employees to be given a 0.73 percent increase in base wage, then after that was configured, add them into the schedule, and then allow them to move through the schedule as any other employee. The amendment passed 19 to 3.
A third amendment to pull the executive administrative assistant and emergency director positions from the schedule and send back to committee passed 16 to 6.
A fourth amendment to give all county employees a 0.73 percent base wage increase failed. The vote was 11 to 11.
A fifth amendment to change the effective date to September passed unanimously.
Much of the discussion regarding the salary schedule was spent on whether it was legal to include the Highway Department employees since the workers recertified with the union in April.
The 44 represented highway employees originally were included in the salary schedule and placed at market average. However, meetings with Human Resources indicated whether the employees were included was up to them: if they chose to be represented, they would not be included and would need to bargain base wages as indicated in state statutes. The workers recertified their representation in April, so they were taken out. A bargaining meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, July 27.
In making the motion to put them in the schedule, Supervisor Matt Jacowski said it was only fair to put them back in along with the 0.73 percent increase.
“I was thinking about the Pledge (of Allegiance) and ‘liberty and justice for all,’” he said. “This current salary schedule doesn’t do that. It discriminates against 44 of our valued highway employees.”
One of the motivations for having the salary study and creating a new schedule was to bring all employees as close to the average market wage for their position as possible. Giving the represented highway workers the increase, which is allowable under state law, and then placing them in the schedule means they may not fall within that market range, Human Resources Director Laura Belanger Tess said. She said she would dig into the issue further, as Tuesday was the first time she had heard of the suggestion.
“The law does not prohibit the county from putting the Highway Department in the schedule,” Corporation Counsel Michael McKenna said. “There’s (still) a duty to negotiate, the question is what you’re negotiating … the county ultimately decided to give the maximum (0.73 percent), you can’t give more, the law prohibits it.”
How union negotiations would work in the future also remains to be seen.
“The Highway Department is the cornerstone of our local economy,” said Supervisor Barry Jacowski, pointing to his ability as a farmer to truck out product with cleared highways. “Please do not leave these people out.”
This issue of longevity being included also was a sticking point. About 275 of the county’s roughly 600 employees qualify for longevity payments, which were approved in 2011 for those employees hired prior to Oct. 1 of that year. Years of service determines what amount the employee receives annually.
Tuesday’s original resolution eliminated longevity, a move that some said would negatively affect an already decreasing morale.
“Whatever you do, make it fair,” said Collene Ottum, who works in the Finance Department. “It’s very disheartening that so much of the money in this wage study is going to people at the top. We’re losing far too many people to private industry … employees already feel devalued.”
Idsvoog agreed with putting longevity back in. “If that was promised, it ought to be kept.”
The new salary schedule combines eight different salary schedules across the county into one with nearly triple the number of advancement columns and better defines each position. The resolution Tuesday also approved pay schedules for on-call/seasonal employees, Health Care Center employees and elected officials.
As part of the study, consultant Victoria McGrath collected job descriptions and salaries on comparable positions in 25 municipalities – 30 were contacted – including neighboring Waupaca, Waushara, Marathon counties, the city of Wisconsin Rapids and the village of Plover. Wood County and the city of Stevens Point were among the municipal governments that did not respond with any data.
Each employee filled out extensive questionnaires, interviews were conducted, and several attempts for grade placement and market wage location were made before the schedule was presented to the County Board.