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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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County To Consider New Pay Schedule, Expanded Study

When Marinette County Board meets on Tuesday, Aug. 27, supervisors will be asked to implement changes in compensation for 30 “benchmarked” and “compression” positions held by 105 Marinette County employees as recommended in a wage study recently completed by Wipfli, LLP, on a contract commissioned by the county.

Wipfli is a nationally recognized CPA and consulting firm, and a committee of county employees has been working with them on new job descriptions and position evaluations aimed at bringing pay into line with responsibilities and job requirements.

Adoption of the plan will mean immediate raises for some employees, and “red circling” pay for some positions that possibly will mean no raises for several years, until the prescribed wage levels catch up with the amounts currently being paid. No one will be asked to take a pay cut.

The board also will be asked to approve spending up to $15,000 as an extension to the Wipfli contract to study another 43 benchmark and/or “compression” positions at $350 each.

Implementing the first portion of the study means immediate raises totaling $130,669 a year for county employees currently being paid under market for the jobs they do, and red circling of pay for jobs currently bringing pay over the market value that eventually could save county taxpayers $340,137 a year. Market values were determined by using data from Door county, Oconto County and a number of private businesses.

Recommendation to go forward with both portions of the new pay plan for county employees was unanimously approved by the Personnel and Veterans Service Committee at a meeting on Friday, Aug. 16.

Committee members are supervisors Ken Casper, Ken Keller, Nick Lakari, Joe Policello and Chair Connie Seefeldt. All were present for the meeting, in addition to County Administrator Ellen Sorensen, County Clerk Kathy Brandt, Human Resources Director Jennifer Holtger, Supervisor Kathy Just, Health and Human Services (HHS) Director Robin Elsner, Library Director Jennifer Thiele, Lindsay Arcand, Information Services (IS) Director Larry Schultz, Sheriff Jerry Sauve, Chief Deputy Jim Hansen, Finance Director Pat Kass, and County Treasurer Bev Noffke.

Sorensen gave a bit of background before the Wipfli study recommendations were distributed to committee members. She said Marinette County is taking steps to repair and update its infrastructure. Roads need a solid foundation. Buildings need a solid foundation. This - the study recommendations - “would be our solid base for our wage and salary structure.”

“Marinette County has been using five different pay scales as well as a nearly 30-year-old wage study to determine wages,” Sorensen reiterated. “The system is not a comprehensive wage system but one that it is cobbled together,” Sorensen declared.

“It is also a system that has been manipulated over the years through cronyism as well as used to punish employees or reward friends,” she went on. “What is being presented today is a system not based upon the person in the job, but the job position itself. The functions of the position and the performance of the individual must drive the study in order for it to work. Managers must manage and workers must perform!”

She continued, “We can no longer write the positions for the person, we must write the position for the needs of Marinette County. Personal agendas need to be checked at the door and are no longer welcome here!”

“Let me caution you that I suspect the folks who have been the most successful in manipulating the system in the past will be very vocal in their objection to this study and may even begin to campaign against it. Please take into consideration that in many cases these positions have been paid over market for years,” Sorensen cautioned.

She said in two departments in particular - Health and Human Services and the Sheriff’s department - have situations in which staff members are paid more than their administrators. In the Sheriff’s Department, some sergeants, with overtime, earn more than the lieutenants, sheriff or chief deputy. There is no incentive to move forward. Robin (Elsner) has the same problem in Health and Human Services.”

Keller recalled years ago the same issue came up because the Chief Deputy was earning more than the Sheriff. However, he was concerned about using a rich county like Door County as a comparable, and suggested using comparisons with more comparable counties, such as Oconto and Shawano. Under the new pay plan, standard cost of living and longevity raises will no longer exist. Future raises will be based on job performance.

Policello asked if there will be union issues, and Sorensen said under the new state laws the only union they have to be concerned about is Wisconsin Professional Police Association (WPPA), from which she said the county got a very fair contract last year.

Wipfli evaluators were aided in their work by a Position Review Committee that included Human Resources Director Jennifer Holtger, Information Services Director Larry Schultz, Laura Mans, Lindsey Arcane and Kate Gross. Sorensen thanked the committee for putting in more than 70 hours of work on the project. Jobs within various departments were evaluated in terms of duties, responsibilities, and amounts of training and education required.

Positions slated to get raises as a result of the study, provided salaries are increased to the midpoint identified, include the Corporation Counsel, for which pay is currently $90,193, and midpoint is $96,367, up $6,173; Human Resources Director, currently $75,395, midpoint $89,621, up $14,225.94; Chief Deputy, $69,854, midpoint $77,513, up $7,659; Public Health Officer, $61,042, midpoint $72,087, up $11,045.23; Lieutenant, three positions, $64,726, up $7,361 each; Communications Director, $59,978, midpoint $62,348, up $2,370; County Conservationist, $59,978, no comparable listed, suggested raise is $2,370.24; Patrol Superintendent (Highway Department) , $62,241, no comparable, raise of $107.24.

In Health and Human Services, positions with “compression issues” and to be red circled are Community Services Supervisor, $2,377.76 over market at $64,726; Community Support Program Supervisor, $511.76 over market at $62,860; and Child and Family Services Manager, $511.76 over market at $62,860. Deemed underpaid are the positions of Long Term Services Manager, under market by $3,061.24 at $59,287, and ARDC Supervisor, $1,306 under at $61,042.

A total of eight Psychiatric RN and Public Health Nurse positions, paid $28.33 per hour, are red circled at 45 cents per hour over market.

The Economic Support Manager position, at $64,726, is red circled at $10,801 over market, with no comparables listed.

By contrast, the $47,737 annual salary of the Emergency Management Director was found $10,246.87 below market, and in line for that amount of a raise, again with no comparables listed.

The Facilities Director salary of $59,978 was red circled at $1,994.13 over market.

The Adult Services Librarian position, at $19.20 per hour, was found under market by $6.73 per hour.

Four accountant positions, at $47,051 per year, were $3,099 below the midpoint and have been tagged for raises of that amount.

The Huber Law Corrections Officer, paid $23.77 per hour, would receive a 34 cent raise.

The GIS Coordinator position, paid $28.91 per hour, is $4.80 above market and will be red circled.

The Human Resources Generalist, paid $44,246, is slated for a $5,904.25 raise.

The four mental health case managers, paid $31.58 per hour, are $7.47 over market and will be red circled.

The Systems Analyst, at $25.89 per hour, is $1.78 over market and also red circled.

The Veterans Service Officer salary of $55,578 was found $5,427 over market and also will be red circled.

Mechanic Chief ASE hourly pay of $22.26 was found $1.85 cents below market, while the Mechanic II ASE hourly pay of $22.11 was 31 cents below market.

Four Child Support Specialist positions paid $20.15 per hour are earmarked for 70 cents per hour raises.

Four Forester positions at $24.12 per hour are red circled at $1.70 over market, and three Micro Computer Specialist positions are red circled at $1.35 per hour over.

The $50,024 annual salary of the Property Lister is red circled at $3,384 over market.

Two Legal Secretary positions paying $19.25 per hour will be increased by $1.60 per hour.

The 19 Civilian Corrections Officer positions, at $21.92 per hour, are red circled at $1.07 per hour over market.

A Mechanic III position paying $22.11 per hour is to be red circled at $1.26 per hour over.

The highest level Administrative Secretary position, at $45,910, is red circled at $5,571 over market.

The 14 dispatcher positions, at $22.80 per hour, are red circled at $3.41 over; Purchasing/Stockroom Coordinator paid $22.11 per hour is red circled at $2.72 over, and the Victim Witness Coordinator, at $19.54 per hour, is red circled at 15 cents per hour over grade.

Three technician positions paying $21.92 per hour are red circled at $3.88 over, and nine Financial Account clerk positions paying $18.35 per hour are red circled at $1.58 per hour over.

Sorensen reminded everyone the evaluations are based on positions, not on the people currently holding them. She said the 30 positions evaluated signify 105 jobs. The hope had been to complete these evaluations and then “slot in” positions with similar amounts of responsibilities and requirements, “but our Marinette County system is so broken that could not be done.”

Arcane said Wipfli cannot slot in the rest and put them where they belong on the pay charts without additional information. She said if they get another 43 positions evaluated they would have 50 percent of the positions in the county benchmarked and then should be able to proceed with slotting in the remaining positions

”with accuracy and integrity.”

Sorensen said because their groundwork is already done here, Wipfli could evaluate the additional 43 positions for $350 each, or a total of $15,000 for all 43.

Seefeldt commented that was a lot of information to take in all at once, since they had just received the proposal.

Sorensen said she needs a decision so she can build the new pay scales into the 2014 budget.

Seefeldt said she had no issue with the red circling, but wondered about the raises, for example where the money will come from, and will they take effect immediately.

Sorensen said the automatic raises currently built into the budget each year will go away, so that will be a savings. Also, the county has $87,000 left from the self insurance account, and they now save $400,000 a year on health insurance. She has identified over $1 million in savings for next year’s budget.

Seefeldt asked if they would have to give the raises all in one year. Sorensen said she would prefer that, but spreading them over a three year period is also an option.

“If this is approved, when will the next 43 changes take effect?” Just asked. Sorensen said they would like to roll it out by Jan. 31. She said the first positions evaluated “were the most out of whack,” but predicted the savings will grow hugely when the next 43 evaluations are completed.

“I’m sad that this has happened to this point,” Just declared. “I could see this coming years and years ago and nothing has been done.”

Keller was surprised at the low cost of the study, compared with the $50,000 price tag attached to a study they had considered and decided not to go forward about five years ago.

Sorensen said the low price was possible because much of the work was done in-house, by county staff. She had previously praised the employees who served on the Position Evaluation Committee, particularly Arcane, Elsner and Pat Kass (Finance Director) who she described as “super stars!”

“I’m not going to lie to you, many department heads were not cooperative,” Sorensen added.

Motion to approve the new pay schedule as presented and forward it to County Board was unanimously approved. At Kass’ suggestion, a request for the Finance Committee to find funding was added. He said the Highway Department and Health and Human Services are being asked to contribute. HHS has money available because a vacant position has not been filled.

Seefeldt expressed thanks to Sorensen, Holtger and the committee that worked with them for the effort they have put into the position evaluations.

The committee approved creation of a new part-time county position of Tourism Director, to work 24 hours a week on a 1-year project assignment basis under the direct supervision of Sorensen, who has a tourism background.

Job description for the position was approved, with the addition of two duties stressed by the Tourism Alliance, one being responsibility for seeking out grants, and the other for pursuing the possibilities of cooperative advertising with other public and private entities.

Location of an office for the new position has not yet been determined, but Sorensen said there is space available adjacent to her office in the courthouse, where equipment and support staff would be available and cost would be minimal.

Other sites being considered are the Chamber of Commerce, which currently provides the Tourism Director’s services on a contract basis, and the City of Marinette’s Welcome Center.

The Tourism Alliance on a six to six tie vote last week rejected a motion to not consider the Chamber as the new office site, and then also on an even split rejected an attempt to prioritize their preference, starting with the Welcome Center as first choice, courthouse as second and Chamber as third. The Economic Development Committee, at a meeting later that day, agreed to postpone a decision on location until September, but approved the job description with the grant writing and co-op advertising responsibilities added.

The county’s current contract with the Chamber for Tourism Director services expires on Dec. 31, and the one year project position for the Tourism Director as a part-time county employee was recommended by the Economic Development and Tourism Committee after several months of deliberations.

In other action:

*The committee approved creation of two additional microcomputer specialist positions, and elimination of a software specialist and help desk microcomputer support specialist position as recommended by Schultz. The change was approved by the Finance Committee at their meeting on Monday, Aug. 19.

*Also approved was elimination of a Library Technical Services Technical Assistant position and creation of a Technical Assistant/Branch Librarian position as recommended by the library board.

*Committee members were authorized to attend the Wisconsin county Mutual insurance Corporation Counsel/Defense Counsel Forum on Sept. 6 at Stevens Point.

*Request from an employee for an additional extension to a leave of absence was denied because the information requested by Holtger had not been provided by the employee. The current leave ends on Thursday, Aug. 29.

*Sorensen expressed a huge “thank you” to the Information Services Department for their “above and beyond” response after a lightning strike on Tuesday, Aug. 6 wiped out much of the county’s computer and telephone systems. She said they worked 48 hours straight and kept county ofices functioning despite some “fried” systems.

*Sorensen reported currently 11 county employees are participating in “LEAN” training, bringing the total to 14 who will be trained to seek out ways to achieve more “lean” (economical and efficient) ways to handle county government tasks. She asked that a future agenda include appointment of a supervisor from the Personnel Committee to the county’s “LEAN” steering committee.

*A schedule of invoices totaling $3,394 was approved for payment.

*Human Resources Director Jennifer Holtger reported poison ivy continues to plague the county work force, although they have been doing everything they can to prevent it.

*Holtger also reported Dispatch Center employees are taking HIPPA training because they are now taking calls for the HHS Department.


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