Wage increases draw questions
When it came time to approve the wages of county employees, the Washington County Board of Supervisors took about an hour to make a decision, Monday morning at the board’s weekly meeting.
Supervisor Jack Seward Jr. opened the discussion. He said that the board had discussed payroll and employee pay rates during the budgeting process in January, February and March. At the beginning of that process, the board set a limit of 2 percent on pay increases. However, the supervisors also said they would listen to supporting arguments for an increase above 2 percent.
Seward said the supervisors did not learn of the wage recommendations for 13 jailers until May, and that the recommendations had not been revised to comply with the 2 percent directive.
Sheriff Jerry Dunbar and Deputy Jared Schneider attended the meeting to discuss the matter with the board.
Dunbar disagreed with Seward.
“I feel that I did follow the board of supervisors’ recommendations,” Dunbar said. “We gave a 2 percent increase to those jailers, we have a step (increase) on top of that, and we followed it just like we’ve done every year prior to this year.”
Seward said that if the wage recommendations were approved for the 2014-15 fiscal year, some of the jailers would see pay hikes as high as 12.35 percent. He also said that the pay increases for jailers have exceeded the directive for at least four years.
“In my view, what you did was you instituted a pay plan that we never appr-oved,” Seward answered.
He then pointed out the first jailer on the sheriff’s list.
“You’re recommending a 9.39 percent pay raise this year,” Seward continued. “Last year they got a 8.46 percent pay raise; the time before that was 2.42; and the time before that, it was 3.66 percent.”
Dunbar said that the sheriff’s department has had a step program, which lays out what the wages will be for the jailers over 10 years.
“Was it approved by the board?” Dunbar asked. “Nope — didn’t have to be in the past. We’ve gone off the step — we’ve shown the board that we had a step program since 2004.”
Supervisor Steve Davis, who was elected to the board in 2008, said, “I’ve never seen the steps.”
At a different point in the meeting, Davis said, “ I mean, they didn’t even have a copy upstairs (in the courthouse) to figure your calculations were correct. They had no clue what your step increases were.”
County Attorney Larry Brock said that according to state law, only the board of supervisors can institute a step program.
“ It’s not up to the individual departments,” he said. “So
I guess I’m a little concerned that there’s been a step program implemented for the jail that’s never been approved by this board in the past.”
One of the reasons Dunbar gave for giving the jailers raises is in order to provide a competitive wage in comparison to surrounding counties. Some jailers move to other counties where the wages are better.
Supervisor Bob Yoder said, “If our (pay) scale is uncompetitive, it’s going to be difficult to stay at a 2 percent directive and get it competitive. That’s the issue I’m seeing here. If we’re losing employees to other counties, and it sounds like we have quite often in the past, what is that costing us?”
Seward said, “I guess my entire point in this little exercise of having a conversation about this is that we’ve shown, I’ve shown, a willingness to work on issues, to hammer them out and solve them.”
He also pointed out that while jailers have been getting raises above the directives, other county employees have not.
“Where is the fairness there?” he asked.
At the end of the discussion, the supervisors approved the wage increases for most other county employees. A motion to scale the jailers’ raises back to 2 percent of fiscal year 2013-14 passed unanimously.