Firm May Review County Wages

County employee pay may go under a microscope as officials work to fix the current system that is said to be “out of whack.”

Meanwhile, county employees are angry and their morale is suffering because they are being asked to do more work without raises, said Angie Hittson with the Franklin County Health Department.

The county commission met with department heads Wednesday to address the employee classification system that officials say needs to be updated.

After the open forum discussion, Presiding County Commissioner John Griesheimer said he would contact the East-West Gateway Council of Governments in St. Louis to see if that organization can help develop solutions.

Fixing the problems could be costly. First District County Commissioner Tim Brinker said outside firms are typically brought in to evaluate pay systems.

The county uses a “step and grade” employee classification system that categorizes workers based on their different levels of responsibility.

The current pay system has been in place since 1997 and has not been updated since then. It has not been followed correctly, and this has caused it to become “out of whack,” County Counselor Mark Vincent said.

Even if a pay study is conducted, the county will still have a hard time finding money to give raises, Second District County Commissioner Mike Schatz said.

Fixing the county’s pay system has been discussed for a couple months. Controversy arose after a select number of employees got raises this year while other workers were left with no increase.

One of the bigger problems with the current county pay system is a lack of consistency between departments. For instance, one department may give its employees raises while other departments may not.

Most recently, this was seen when the county assessor’s office and the recorder of deeds office gave raises while other departments did not grant increases.

At the Wednesday meeting, Sheriff Gary Toelke said the best solution would be for all county departments to get on the “same sheet of music.”

But this would require elected officials signing off on a personnel policy each year, and Toelke said he does not think that would happen.

Each elected official has independent authority to set the pay levels of their employees unless annually each elected official signs off and agrees to be bound by a personnel policy, Vincent said.

Toelke said he does not think department heads would agree to sign off on the personnel policy. Some elected officials may prefer to have the autonomy to run their offices the way they wish, the sheriff said.

Schatz said he would like to think department heads would sign a personnel policy.

Pay issues have been a problem for several years, the sheriff said, noting that he has made two promotions that did not come with wage increases.

County Clerk Debbie Door said her office also has lost staff, but employees have not been paid more to cover the extra workload.

The benefits are the only thing that makes working for the county tolerable for some employees, Vincent said.

Griesheimer said the hope is that the economy will turn around and sales tax revenue will rebound so raises can be given next year.

Griesheimer added that if unexpected funding comes forth this year that he would not be opposed to giving raises mid-year.

Pay increases for length of service could be part of a new pay plan to avoid the problem of new hires making the same as veteran employees.

Pay Ranges

Currently, full-time employee pay varies between departments. Below is a breakdown of hourly pay ranges for some different county offices:

Assessor’s office, $12.63-$20.14; collector of revenue, $13.04-$15.49; county clerk, $11.20-$16.37;

Emergency management, $15.90; health department, $11.55-$18.41; information technology/geographic information systems/911 addressing, $14.24-$15.49;

Juvenile office, $12.46; municipal court, $12.43; prosecuting attorney, $12.43-$18.69;

Public administrator, $15.03; public works, $11.77-$21.38; recorder of deeds, $12.37-$16.68;

Sheriff, $11.32-$23.11; and treasurer, $14.39.