2024 budget notebook: Monroe County council looks to do more for lower-paid workers

Monroe County council on Oct. 3, 2023 clockwise from left: Cheryl Munson, Marty Hawk, Geoff McKim, Kate Wiltz, Jennifer Crossley, Peter Iversen, and Trent Deckard.

At its work session on Tuesday night, the Monroe County council took up some leftover issues from its deliberations on the 2024 budget—salaries towards the upper end of the scale,  as well as those at the lower end.

Towards the higher end of county compensation, though not at the very top of the scale, are the salaries for elected officials like auditor, assessor, clerk, coroner, commissioners, county councilors, recorder, surveyor, and treasurer.

The county council settled on increasing the salaries of elected officials by 8.5 percent, compared to 2023. That’s the same percentage increase that other county workers will receive.

The council also agreed on Tuesday that for some jobs on the lower end of the county’s salary grid, they would increase the pay by 55 cents an hour—on top of the 8.5 percent increase that other employees will receive. Those lower-paid jobs are classified as COMOT (computer, office machine operation, technician) in the county’s salary grid.

On Tuesday, county councilors also agreed that the correct interpretation of their consensus last week was to increase the compensation of probation officers by 8.5 percent—compared to their 2023 level. That is, the idea was not to increase their pay by the state-mandated minimum of 6.1 percent, then layer an additional 8.5 percent on top of that.

Not yet factored into the spending plan for 2024 are compensation increases for the collective bargaining units—the highway union, merit deputy union, correctional officers union.

At Tuesday’s public hearings held by the county council on the 2024 budget, there was only light participation. But both people who commented praised the council for its efforts to increase pay for employees.

Jim Shelton, commenting on behalf of the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce, said about the council’s effort to increase pay, “You did hard work, very complicated work.” He added, “We agree that it needed to be done. And we compliment you for doing that.”

County highway director Lisa Ridge took the public mic to express her appreciation for the council’s effort to get the pay increase to 8.5 percent. Ridge told the council: “I’ve been here 36 years. And what you guys have done over the last two to three years for county employees, I think, has been a great accomplishment and moving in the right direction.”

Ridge said the better pay helps with retention, and improves morale. Ridge added, “Our employees deserve it.”

No one commented on the budgets for the Monroe Fire Protection District or the Monroe County Solid Waste Management District.

Nothing is final until the council votes to adopt the 2024 budget on Oct. 17, after a first reading on Oct. 10.

The total proposed 2024 budget for Monroe County government is $132,259,264. About half of that, $59,251,842, is made up of the general fund.

Key to the council’s deliberations on the compensation for elected officials was the connection between the pay for the elected head of an office, compared to their chief deputy. The council has adopted a policy that defines the salary of chief deputies as 90 percent of the salary of the elected official.

Besides 8.5 percent, the other options that the council considered were 4 percent and 6 percent. The 4-percent increase corresponds to the increase in the property tax levy for 2024. And the 6-percent figure corresponds to year-over-year inflation.

The council settled on pay increases for the elected officials at 8.5 percent, mainly out of consideration for the chief deputies.

Councilor Trent Deckard put it like this: “With the chief deputy in that mix, you have to look at the eight and a half percent.” He added, “We’ve had some notoriously strong chief deputies that have done tremendous things for this community.”

Deckard acknowledged the awkwardness of elected officials discussing their own pay. “No one weeps for an elected official, nor should they.”

On Tuesday, councilors were also not keen to revise the basic matrix of compensation they had established for elected officials.

In the county’s adopted compensation system for six elected officials, the assessor, auditor, clerk, recorder, and treasurer are considered to be basic full-time employees who are managing a department, and their effort is assigned at the level of 100 percent. The 100-percenters all receive the same compensation. For 2023 it is $70,516.

Compensation for other elected officials is defined in terms of some fraction of the pay received by the six 100-percenters. For example, pay for the county commissioners is calculated at 85 percent.

County councilors are analyzed at 30-percent effort. That means county councilors are paid $21,155 for 2023.

[Added Oct. 4 at 4:20 p.m. The 90 percent assigned to the position of surveyor is not based on an estimated fraction of a full-time equivalent. Rather it is a kind of hedge the county council has adopted, against the possibility that the elected surveyor obtains a license—which under state law would require the county to pay the licensed surveyor 50-percent more than it pays an unlicensed surveyor.

Councilor Geoff McKim has commented elsewhere: “ I don’t think (and I don’t think most of us on the council think) that the surveyor is any less of a full-time department head than the other elected officials that we have analyzed at 100 percent. The analysis of the surveyor as 90 percent of a full-time elected official was simply a compromise to both compensate the surveyor fairly and reduce the risk to county government for paying out such a high salary for something that we do not have any control over (the surveyor getting a license).”]

Council president Kate Wiltz noted that the point of the council’s decision last year to adopt the grid for elected officials was to “avoid a yearly discussion on individual changes to all of the various elected positions in county government of which there are many.”

Councilor Geoff McKim weighed in for leaving the structure of the grid for electeds the way it was adopted last year, and to apply the same 8.5-percent increase that everyone else received. “Probably the simplest way to do it is to at least give the system we came up with a year… rather than immediately dismantling and reconstructing it.”

Table with PERCENTAGE then POSITION100% Assessor 100% Auditor 100% Clerk 85% Commissioner 70% Coroner 30% Council 100% Recorder 90% Surveyor 100% Treasurer
The “PERCENTAGE” column reflects the fraction of full-time effort that the Monroe County council has settled on for elected officials for purposes of calculating their salaries.

One thought on “2024 budget notebook: Monroe County council looks to do more for lower-paid workers

  1. It is not just a good idea, but ultimately a very fair idea to offer a flat rate to those lower on the pay scale. Percentage increase doesn’t help them as much as it does for higher income staff…Kudos…great decision!

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