Snafu leads Renville County to table 5 percent increase in pay scale

Mar. 7—OLIVIA — The Renville County Board of Commissioners voiced support for a 5 percent pay scale progression for county employees, but tabled action on the proposal until an unexpected snafu can be resolved.

The 5% wage increase as proposed would have been within the existing pay scale, which specifies a minimum, mid-point and maximum for each grade.

For employees already at the maximum of the pay scale in their grade — or who would have been bumped there by the increase, the county had intended to provide the added pay to the Voluntary Employee Benefits Association accounts.

Lisa Herges, county administrator, told the commissioners at their meeting Feb. 28 that she learned that the county can only put funds into the accounts of employees who also obtain their health insurance through the county.

There are different restrictions on Voluntary Employee Benefits Association accounts than other health savings accounts, she explained.

The commissioners had planned to vote on the 5 percent proposal at their Feb. 28 meeting. The intent is to make the increase effective May 13.

But on a divided vote, the commissioners tabled action until the administration can find a way to resolve the issue over Voluntary Employee Benefits Association accounts.

During discussions prior to the vote, the commissioners reiterated their support for the proposal to increase the pay scale. The commissioners said they have heard largely positive comments on it, both from county employees as well as members of the public.

"Very positive comments," said Board Chair Greg Snow.

The proposal is aimed at employee retention and recruitment. The commissioners discussed whether a percentage increase or a flat dollar increase is the better way to go.

The percentage increase means that those on the top end of the scale will receive a higher monetary increase than those on the lower end.

Commissioner Dave Hamre asked if a $1 increase on the beginning wage would help the county with its recruitment needs. He said he supports the proposal, but is also concerned about the compounded costs a percentage increase will represent in future years.

Commissioner Randy Kramer said the 5 percent increase represents an average increase of $1.50 per hour, or roughly $3,000 in pre-tax income per employee. Even after taxes, that represents meaningful dollars that can help address employee needs, he pointed out.

One year ago, the county provided each employee with $1,300 in retention payments.

The county has 208 full- and part-time employees who would see an increase if the 5 percent pay scale progression is approved.