Garfield County government upping worker wages, but bracing for shortages in hot labor market
A 5% pay hike for Garfield County government employees that’s proposed as part of the 2022 county budget presented this week aims to maintain the county’s workforce amid hiring pressures.
Whether it will be enough to hang onto key personnel as those same adjustments are being made all across the public and private sector remains to be seen.
The county’s human resources director, Diane Hayes, addressed the concern during a recent work session with the county commissioners.
County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky reiterated that concern Monday as the 2022 proposed budget was presented.
“We are going to see continued vacancies all through the year, because the job market is so competitive,” Jankovsky said. “That will put pressure on our department heads to operate.”
A planned 5% wage increase for county workers is just enough to keep up with inflation, which is increasing at about the same rate, Jankovsky noted.
“If we don’t do this, we will have morale problems and lose more employees,” he said.
To adjust for declining revenues related to the downturn in property taxes from oil and gas production, the county has reduced its workforce from 515 employees in 2020 to 490 budgeted for 2022.
Those positions have been eliminated through attrition and early retirement. In the meantime, though, the county just like other employers has had a hard time filling vacant positions. As of Tuesday, the county had 14 open positions, and in recent months has seen that number as high as 22 vacancies, Hayes said in an email.
Wages now account for $32.8 million in expenses budgeted for next year; the vast majority of that within the county’s proposed $56.6 million general fund budget.
In addition to the wage increases, the county is also budgeting for a 7.5% increase in health insurance costs, County Manager Kevin Batchelder said during the Monday budget presentation.
County commissioners began meeting with department heads on Tuesday to go over their individual budgets.
The county continues to adjust to a downturn in property tax revenue from the oil and gas industry in recent years. That has resulted in a $6.3 million reduction in revenue from the end of 2020, Batchelder said.
Healthy fund balances and a $5 million infusion of federal dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act related to pandemic impacts is helping bridge the gap, though.
The county expects $101.2 million in revenue for the coming year, with total expenses coming to $112.9 million. That’s an increase of $11.2 million in spending over this year’s budget, Batchelder said in his presentation.
Within that overall budget for next year, in addition to the general fund, would be $26.2 million for human services, $12.4 million for road and bridge, and $4.1 million for public health.
The county proposes $10.6 million in spending for capital projects and purchases, including $2 million for ongoing reconstruction of County Road 215 near Parachute.
Budget meetings continue Oct. 19 and Oct. 25, and adoption is slated for Nov. 8.
Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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