Wis. county's new compensation system shows more appreciation of correctional officers

Eau Claire County Board adopted a long-awaited salary and job classification schedule Tuesday night for non-union county employees that attempts to make wages and compensation equivalent to similar-sized communities


By Joe Knight
Leader-Telegram

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. — The Eau Claire County Board adopted a long-awaited salary and job classification schedule Tuesday night for non-union county employees that attempts to make wages and compensation equivalent to similar-sized communities.

“I know it’s been a difficult process,” board Chairman Gregg Moore said, following the final vote, to a room packed with county employees.

Employees applauded after the 21-5 vote approving the new job classification, even though appeals by some employees are expected.

No employees will see wage reductions under the new job classification system, but some will receive only modest increases, while positions that were viewed as undercompensated by a wide margin will receive larger increases.

The new job classification system will cost the county about $292,000 in wage and benefit increases for the remainder of the year. That figure includes an increase for certain employees who have been with the county for five or more years that was not part of the original plan and which added about $50,000 to the wage package for the remainder of the year.

The amended plan approved Tuesday also restored funding for corrections employees to levels recommended by a consultant’s study. A number of jail workers had spoken at the July meeting, saying County Board committees had singled out their occupations for cuts.

Until Gov. Scott Walker and the Legislature passed a law eliminating the bargaining authority of most unions of public employees four years ago, the wages and compensations were negotiated by several unions.

In an attempt to come up with a fair wage scale in the absence of that process, the county hired a consultant in March 2013 to review what employees in similar communities were making,and to also make an internal review to simplify job classifications countywide.

When the board felt progress was too slow, it hired McGrath Human Resources Group in December of 2014 to complete the study.

The consultant, Victoria McGrath, presented the study at the July meeting, but the board postponed a vote on the wage scale based partly on concerns from corrections officers who spoke at the meeting but mainly because of some supervisors wondered whether the county could afford compensation increases because of unanticipated cost overruns in the Human Services Department.

But at Tuesday night’s meeting finance director Scott Rasmussen said the county could afford the wage package. Unanticipated costs in Human Services were offset by unanticipated revenues from the county sales tax — about $1 million more than expected — and from timber revenues, Rasmussen said.

For 2016 the county was in pretty good shape based on predictions for the sales tax, timber revenues and levy increases based on the amount of new construction going on in the county.

The approved salary package included a four-year wage freeze for legal specialists in the corporation counsel’s office, an attempt to compensate for compensation increases given to legal specialists in the office above those recommended in the McGrath study. Those increases did not sit well with legal specialists in other departments.

Steve Flackey, a corrections officer who attended both the July and Tuesday night’s meeting, said the wage package approved Tuesday showed more appreciation of corrections officers.

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