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News / Politics / Clark County Politics

Clark County workers could see pay raise of up to 15%

Council to mull recommendation

By Shari Phiel, Columbian staff writer
Published: July 14, 2023, 6:03am

Some Clark County employees could be in line for as much as a 15 percent raise based on the results of a yearlong county government employment classification and compensation study.

The county council reviewed the new report and data prepared by Wisconsin-based consulting firm Baker Tilly during a work session Wednesday.

Baker Tilly evaluated 288 county positions in its market assessment, representing just under 65 percent of all county positions. It assigned a minimum, midpoint and maximum salary for each position and compared them with “market rate” data from the cities of Battle Ground, Camas, Vancouver, Portland and Washougal as well as other counties and jurisdictions.

Baker Tilly found 4.7 percent of salaries it surveyed fell below market rate at the minimum level, 7 percent were below market at the midpoint and 9 percent were below market at the maximum.

The firm recommended positions below market rate be moved up to the new range, that salaried positions at market remain unchanged and that positions with salaries above market not be decreased.

Salary reassignments for 2023 would be capped at 15 percent or moved to the minimum range. Specific salaries were not included in the study.

An executive committee, which includes Sheriff John Horch, Treasurer Alishia Topper, Deputy County Manager Amber Emery and other staff and elected officials presented the study’s finding to the council.

“Our executive committee is recommending the council adopt Baker Tilly’s recommendations, approve the position, title and classification adjustments … approve the use of the six new pay structures … and approve the position grade assignments,” Emery told the council.

The objective of the study, according to the report, was to complete a countywide study that achieves equity, assures competitive recruitment and promotes retention.

“Having pay that is not competitive in the marketplace negatively impacts our recruitment efforts and shrinks our application pool, resulting in fewer and less qualified candidates,” Topper told the council. “They also result in a high employee turnover, which costs us more money in recruitment and training time.”

Topper also said a dependable, competent and tenured workforce is needed not just to provide services to residents but to also deliver on the county’s mission to enhance the quality of life for the community.

“The recommendations of the study will take us in the right direction in strengthening our recruitment, retention and our internal equity,” Topper added.

Horch said the executive committee reviewed the proposed changes with the county’s elected officials and departments.

“They are supported by all the departments. Even though we’ve spent a lot of time, had some good debate and gone back and forth, no plan is perfect. We want to acknowledge that. But we are recommending that the council move forward with this plan,” Horch said.

Horch said there are some gaps still to address, but he said that can be done later on during implementation. He said overall, this was a big step in the right direction.

Emery said implementation would be done in two phases. The first phase would bring all employees under the new pay grades. The second phase would address pay policies and practices and evaluate the recommended pay plans from Baker Tilly, Emery said.

Increasing pay rates will mean additional costs. According to Finance Director Mark Gassaway, that won’t be as much of an issue as some might expect.

“If the salary realignments as proposed by the Baker Tilly study are implemented, we will be able to do that within the existing budget that was approved for 2023,” Gassaway said.

Gassaway said money was set aside in contingency because results from the study were expected to increase the county’s expenses, although some adjustments will still need to be made.

In fact, more was set aside than will be needed. According to Gassway, $6.25 million was included in the budget, but the recommendations total just under $4.5 million. Much of this came from the general fund, which had $3.75 million included but the recommendations totaled $2.73 million.

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“There’s an immediate impact that we will see but we also wanted to explore what would happen over time with those impacts,” Gassaway added. “We’ve determined that the impacts of the salary realignments are sustainable within the next six-year plan.”

The council will review the study findings and may vote on the recommendations during its July 18 meeting.

To see the report and watch the full meeting, go to https://clark.wa.gov/councilors/clark-county-council-meetings.

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