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St. Croix salary plan, and raises, sent back to committee

A proposal to approve a new wage grid for 230 non-union St. Croix County employees went back to the drawing board Tuesday. Unless action is taken later, many of those employees will get no pay increases this year.

After several years of study and aborted attempts, consultants brought a new salary grid to the County Board in January. The proposal -- which applies to managers, department heads and administrators -- would have given 2.05 percent increases to 179 employees considered "within the range" of appropriate pay and a 12.16 percent increase to 37 employees considered underpaid.

Consultants from Springsted Inc. interviewed department heads and collected information from employees before creating new position descriptions for all the non-union jobs. The revised descriptions were then evaluated using a trade-marked analysis that considered training and experience, complexity of work, working conditions and other factors to determine each job's level on the salary grid.

As the board prepared to take up that item Tuesday, Finance Committee Chairman Daryl Standafer proposed the matter be sent back to his committee, which would delegate a review and appeals of grid positions to a staff committee made up of Corporation Counsel Greg Timmerman, Administrative Coordinator Chuck Whiting and Human Resources Administrator Tammy Funk.

That panel, said Standafer, would determine a methodology for dealing with employee placement appeals, arrive at a consensus, review the appeals and bring the results to the new Administration Committee.

The plan, he said, would be to implement the new grid Jan. 1, 2011.

For now, he said, there would be no change in pay for non-union employees.

"In essence, in my opinion, we'd have to undo everything that has been done," protested Timmerman, saying he's neither able nor willing to serve on the panel.

"There are enough flaws in this product, that it needs to go in the scrap pile," said Supervisor Lorin Sather, River Falls. He said he sees nothing but problems with asking employees to decide where to place their peers or subordinates on the grid.

"This would create almost a perpetual internal turmoil," said Sather, himself a former county employee.

If any of the three are willing to serve on the panel, they will be either heroes or villains to fellow employees depending on the outcome, said Sather.

The county already has a grid in place and it's obviously working, he said, suggesting keeping the current grid.

The proposal isn't to vote on the grid now but to send it back to committee, responded Supervisor Buck Malick, town of Hudson.

Sather suggested acting on it by rejecting it: "It's a monkey on the back of all the employees."

Malick recommended that the new 19-member board, which will be elected and seated in April, should talk about this issue at its goal-setting meeting.

Only three supervisors voted against sending the proposal back to committee.

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.