County Board can’t reach consensus on raises

by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff

SHEBOYGAN – Nearly one-third of the way through the year, county nonunion employees are still waiting to see if they’ll get the 1.57 percent pay raise that was included in the 2015 county budget.

The County Board Tuesday voted down a compromise proposed by the Finance Committee to divide the increase between pay raises and bonuses, depending on where an employee falls on the salary range for their position.

The apparent sticking point is a recently completed independent study of the county’s non-union employee salary ranges. That study found a number of employees who are already above the top of the report’s recommended pay range for their positions.

The Finance Committee proposed granting 1.57 percent raises to those who fall within or below the proposed ranges and a one-time 1.57 percent bonus to those who fall above the proposed ranges.

County Administrator Adam Payne explained that the committee proposal would allow the latter group of employees to receive the money set aside for the raises in the budget while still keeping their base pay where it is now.

He noted that consideration had been given at one point to making the acrossthe board raise 1 percent and using the remaining funds to create a pool for merit raises.

But Payne added that county officials are not all at the same point on conducting employee evaluations, which might make a merit raise system unequal and unfair.

“My recommendation was to give the across-the-board 1.57 percent. That’s what we budgeted, what we promised,” Payne told the supervisors.

He then added that he felt the Finance Committee bonus proposal was “a reasonable compromise.”

But not all supervisors agreed.

“I believe granting a bonus is not a good policy and is perhaps even a precedent setting policy,” Supervisor Fran Damp stated.

“I believe bonuses are generally given as a reward for outstanding performance by an employee. I believe the proposed ordinance increases wages to employees who have already benefited from higher wages for years,” Damp continued. She noted that she had received phone calls from constituents asking why the county was considering giving raises to employees already above the maximum of their pay ranges.

“We promised these people, whether you like it or not,” Supervisor Charles Conrardy responded, referring to the 1.57 percent across-the-board raises included in the 2015 county budget already approved by the board.

“We have people who haven’t gotten a raise for seven years. That’s who I’m getting phone calls from,” Conrardy continued. “I don’t know how you can say that someone’s going to be above their classifi- cation pay when we haven’t even adopted that yet.”

“My feeling is that we should be voting on everything at one time,” Supervisor William Goehring commented, referring to the pay raises and the proposed new pay scales.

“Some people, perhaps, are being overpaid, but I’m more concerned about the 29 people being underpaid,” as identified in the Gallagher study, Goehring added.

“There were differing opinions on what should be done, but I can see merits to both,” Supervisor Devin LeMahieu, a member of the Finance Committee, said. “That’s why we proposed this compromise.”

“When this first came to the Finance Committee, it was suggested not to make it a raise (but) to redline employees. I think this was a fair compromise. I think it made sense,” Supervisor Greg Weggeman said of the Finance Committee proposal.

In the end, only six supervisors – LeMahieu, George Marthenze, Edward Procek, Roger TeStroete, Thomas Wegner and Weggeman – voted for the Finance Committee proposal. Supervisors Brian Hoffmann and Vernon Koch were absent.

Conrardy then moved to have the ordinance reconsidered, hoping to amend it to vote on the original proposal for an acrossthe board 1.57 percent raise for all nonunion employees.

“I have a feeling we should do it that way. It’s pretty clear we’re going to give them a 1.57 percent pay raise,” Supervisor Jacob Van Dixhorn stated.

Conrardy’s motion was voted down as well, leaving the issue back in the hands of the Finance and Human Resources committees.

The meeting was the last for LeMahieu, who was elected to the state Senate last fall and has submitted his resignation from the County Board, effective April 30.

Payne joined with Board Chairman TeStroete and Vice-Chairman Wegner in recognizing LeMahieu for his nine years of service on the County Board.

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