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News / Politics / Clark County Politics

Clark County Council OKs salary raise for employees

Increases to cost $850K per year, expected to be sustainable for 6 years

By Shari Phiel, Columbian staff writer
Published: July 20, 2023, 5:52pm

Update: This story has been updated to reflect that pay rates for all county employees included in the salary realignment will be increased by a maximum of 15 percent or to within the new salary range. No current employees included in the realignment will be left below the new salary range.

Some Clark County employees will see an increase in their paychecks come Aug. 1 now that the county council has approved salary realignments proposed in a study from the consulting firm of Baker Tilly.

The council voted 4-0 to approve the recommendations during its Tuesday meeting. Councilor Michelle Belkot was absent.

“It is truly my honor to present the work our executive team did with Baker Tilly with regards to a classification and compensation study,” County Manager Kathleen Otto told the council.

The county began working with Baker Tilly in August 2022 and presented the study findings during a work session on July 12. The executive team included Sheriff John Horch, Treasurer Alishia Topper and Deputy County Manager Amber Emery, who worked with elected officials and staff to complete the study.

Otto noted the salary adjustments will apply to nonrepresented employees only. Salaries for the county’s union and guild employees will be adjusted through collective bargaining agreements, she said, which will come before the council for approval when ready. Only salaries below the market rates identified in the study will be adjusted. Salaries within or above the market will remain as is.

In addition to the salary changes being made effective Aug. 1, Otto said “a premium rate equal to the salary realignment percentage from Aug. 1 through Dec. 31” would be paid to employees hired prior to June 1.

The study also includes salary adjustments to “realign the sheriff’s office and prosecuting attorney’s office to be paid through the public safety sales tax fund,” Otto said. A large chunk of the salary changes will be paid from the general fund, with smaller amounts coming from the planning and road funds.

The salary changes for nonrepresented employees will mean an additional $850,000 per year in expense, Otto said, adding that falls within the current budget and is financially sustainable for at least the next six years.

“I want to thank … the team that worked really hard in this last year and, of course, our employees for their patience while we’ve gone through this process to make sure we are competitive and that we can continue to attract great employees and retain them,” Otto said.

Councilor Sue Marshall also thanked the executive committee and staff for their work.

“As a major employer, it’s important for us to keep up to date, to be competitive so that we’re able to attract and retain the very best employees,” Marshall said. “I’m just glad that we’re doing this now and hope that we can keep it updated as we go forward.”

Councilor Glen Yung echoed Marshall’s comments.

“I think it’s something we really needed to have access to this information. I have personally witnessed a lot of high-quality staff members we’ve lost to local jurisdictions,” Yung said. “I want to make every effort possible to make sure we’re comparative and competitive to our local, other jurisdictions.”

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Although current employees will be capped at a maximum of a 15 percent salary increase, or the minimum of the new range, the salary paid to a new employee in that same position may be higher.

For example, the current pay range for an entry-level deputy prosecuting attorney is $66,528 to $93,060. The salary realignment study puts the pay range at $88,711 to $133,067, or an increase of 33 percent to 43 percent.

“When an employee is hired, we follow Human Resources policy to hire appropriately in the newly approved grade range,” said Emery.

Examples of other positions with a new pay range greater than current salaries plus the 15 percent cap include chief deputy sheriff, prosecuting attorney II, deputy county manager and others. However, the salaries for most positions appear to be within 15 percent of the new salary range.

County Finance Director Mark Gassaway said positions that would still be below the new range with the 15 percent cap were previously identified as exceptions and would be placed at the first step, or minimum, of the new salary range.

Otto noted this is the first of at least three phases planned. She said the county also needs to look at its policies and other things to move forward.

The new salary schedule can be found at https://shorturl.at/fLQV8. The county’s current employee salaries are available at https://clark.wa.gov/human-resources.