CASPER, Wyo.– Natrona County has been conducting a compensation study for neighboring government employees for months in hopes of staying competitive in the job market. Once the study is complete, all that remains is for the County Board of Commissioners to vote on the proposed adjustments at its Nov. 15 meeting.
“It’s something we’ve been working on for a long time; I probably put more than 50 hours into it,” said human resources director Danielle Krucheck. “We started this process at the end of July.”
What Krucheck found was that in many counties, Natrona County was lagging behind other governments in the region.
“Cities” are a little higher [than ours], Campbell County’s are a bit higher,” Krucheck previously told Oil City News. “Albany County is lower but we’re all pretty close together.”
The study found that not only are salaries in many counties lagging behind other local governments, but there are also inconsistencies within Natrona County’s employee base. For example, Krucheck said, there are employees with similar roles, qualifications and tenures in different departments who earn vastly different salaries. There are also cases of people being newly hired for salaries similar to employees who have worked in the county for several years.
Reviewing data from all departments except the Natrona County Sheriff’s Office, Krucheck said she would recommend that about half of all employees in the county receive a raise to enter what is considered as the average salary range for their position.
The size of these recommended increases varies wildly, she added.
“It really depends on the position and years of service,” Krucheck said. “There is a GIS employee who, if approved, will receive a raise of $21,000 per year. … Then there is a Road and Bridge employee who will only receive a raise of $713 a year. So it really depends on a lot of factors.
Despite the market research findings, Krucheck added that retention hasn’t been too big of an issue for the county in recent years.
“Our revenue has never exceeded the national average or the Wyoming average,” she said. “I can say, however, that with some higher positions the city will try to recruit and so will we. So it’s about staying competitive.
Krucheck said she has met with department heads in recent days to explain the proposed salary adjustments. Some of those department heads, like Sheriff John Harlin, have reservations about the study’s methodology.
“I am not prepared to support this from today,” Harlin said at the November 1 Board of Commissioners meeting. “We met for the first time on Monday October 24 and I received preliminary scales and payslips on October 25.
“I started doing calculations and they just didn’t make sense, so I contacted the other sheriffs, and I have pay scales that came in and they were different from what was calculated . … It’s easy to look at numbers on a piece of paper, but the real job title they have has to be relative to what they actually do and perform day-to-day tasks. And it is difficult to translate into a market analysis.
“It’s just the philosophy of the ladder, and I think we can get there,” Krucheck said of Hamlin’s criticism. “Traditionally they did step increases and we will continue with the step increases, but they weren’t consistent across their ranks. Thus, a sheriff’s deputy could receive up to six pay increments, while a sergeant only receives two.
Looking ahead to next week’s meeting, Krucheck said she hopes the commissioners will approve proposed wage increases to keep the county competitive in the job market and to appropriately reward long-serving employees.
“We want to stay competitive,” she said. “And there are employees who have been with us for a long time and who do not earn more, or not much more, than they were earning.
“We have been very budget conscious with our posts, especially our salary posts. Now we have to catch up, because we now have compression problems and unfair wages.
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