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County board delays decision on pay for administrators

After eight years and derailed attempts at change, St. Croix County is looking at adjusting the pay plan for its 230 non-union employees.

On Tuesday consultants from Springsted Inc. went over a new salary grid that would give many of the workers -- most of whom are managers, department heads or administrators -- a raise. County Board members agreed to hear and discuss the proposal this week and meet in special session Feb. 23 to continue the discussion and vote.

Springsted Vice President Ann Antonsen reported that her company, which began this study in January 2008, revised position descriptions and reviewed pay scales in comparable counties before developing a new plan with 28 grades and nine, rather than seven, steps. Under the recommended wage schedule:

  • 37 current employees are being paid less than the minimum of the proposed range for their new pay grade,
  • 179 workers' pay falls within the proposed range for their job,
  • and the pay for 15 employees exceeds the maximum on their proposed wage schedule.

    Because the pay study was not completed when the 2010 county budget was being prepared, the County Board set aside $259,000 for raises for this group. The plan offered Tuesday would cost about $228,000.

    Antonsen suggested that the 37 who are paid less than the minimum be brought up to that level, for a total cost of $25,932, and that those who are being paid within their proposed range be moved onto the new step closest to their current range without cutting their current pay, for a total cost of $202,306.

    She said the board could freeze the pay of the 15 who are making above the maximum for their wage schedule or could give them a lump sum without increasing their pay scale.

    County Board members received the report just a couple of days before the Jan. 19 meeting and balked at approving the new pay scales this week.

    Supervisor Julie Speer, Wilson, made a motion to remove the item from the agenda and set a special meeting that would also give employees and the public a chance to comment.

    "We just got this information, and you can hardly read it," said Supervisor Lorin Sather, River Falls, alluding to the small type on some pages.

    Besides, he said, the board has many other things on the agenda ahead of the pay scales.

    "By the time it comes up today, we'll be stroked into a coma, and who knows what we'll do," said Sather.

    "We as a board need a little more information before we can make a decision that affects so many," agreed Supervisor Esther Wentz, New Richmond.

    Antonsen said Springsted asked for comparable wage and benefit information from 22 public agencies but received that data from only 11. Based on that information, on average St. Croix's current salaries are competitive, she said.

    Also, she said, employee recruitment and retention doesn't seem to be a problem, although there is some concern about future recruitment for key positions.

    Supervisor Steve Hermsen, town of Hudson, asked why there were no comparisons from the private sector.

    "We do draw from the private sector for our jobs," he said.

    Her company doesn't work for private sector companies and has found that 99% of the time when it asked companies for compensation information, they weren't willing to give out that data.

    "Most of the time we don't ask for it because we don't get it," said Antonsen.

  • Judy Wiff

    Judy Wiff has been regional editor for RiverTown’s Wisconsin newspapers since 1996. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and sociology from UW-River Falls. She has worked as a reporter for several weekly newspapers in Wisconsin.

    (715) 426-1049