Garfield County workers to receive 5% mid-year pay bump
Wage hike incorporates Sheriff’s Office request
Non-elected Garfield County government employees will see their second 5% pay boost this year, as the county tries to stay competitive in the labor market among public entities amid the ever-rising cost of living.
County Manager Kevin Batchelder and Human Resources Director Diane Hayes recommended to county commissioners Monday that county workers receive a mid-year pay hike of 4% across-the-board, based on a recent market study.
Commissioners took it a step beyond and approved the 5% raise.
Hayes said the current labor market and wages being offered by the county’s nearest competition for workers are unlike anything she’s seen in 35 years.
“We are a little late to the game,” she said. “But we have been trying to be very thorough in our research and wanted to be patient and make sure this was not a blip.
“It’s not a blip. This looks to be an ongoing trend.”
Last week, commissioners heard from Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario, who requested a 7% mid-year raise for his deputies and other sheriff’s department employees.
Commissioner Tom Jankovsky on Monday convinced fellow commissioners John Martin and Mike Samson to meet in the middle and enact a 5% raise across the board.
“I do think we have to be competitive,” Jankovsky said, adding that combined with a “good benefits package,” the raise should also help the sheriff’s department in its hiring.
County workers were given a 5% raise to start the year as part of the approved 2022 county budget.
The mid-year raise will cost county taxpayers another roughly $1.25 million, Batchelder said. However, that cost is currently being offset by several vacancies across multiple county departments, accounting for more than $3 million, he said.
While some of those positions may be recouped with the pay increase and a subsequent adjustment to the county’s wage scale, at a cost of about $15,000, the reality is the number of unfilled positions is likely to increase, Jankovsky said.
“Our employees are having to carry that load,” he said.
Prospective new hires are also demanding a higher wage before accepting a position with the county.
Also on Monday, Community Development Director Sheryl Bower received permission to exceed the pay range for a new county planner with 20 years of experience. That will cost the county an extra $6,000, she said, but could also have ripple effects in terms of any equity adjustments that might need to be made for existing employees.
Several top-level county positions are vacant or about to be, including a new county manager to replace Batchelder, who recently announced his retirement effective in September. County Attorney Tari Williams also confirmed Monday that she is leaving in August to take a job as senior legal counsel for the North County Transit District in San Diego County, California. In addition, the county is still looking for a chief building official and finance director.
The wage market study found Garfield County to be an average of 5% below market compared to other area government-sector workers, said Jessica Roberts, compensation and benefits manager for the county.
The county’s top wage earners are now 11% below the market, she said.
“We are seeing that in new requests for pay increases and equity adjustments,” Roberts said. “This (mid-year increase) is one way to adjust that.”
As the process starts to craft a 2023 county budget, commissioners acknowledged that another pay adjustment may be necessary come the first of the year.
Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or email@example.com.
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