The Hamilton County Council on Tuesday approved new pay ranges and a minimum salary for the county's 410 employees.
The county spent $14,300 earlier this year to hire Muncie-based Waggoner, Irwin, Scheele & Associates to conduct a compensation study to compare Hamilton County salaries to those in cities like Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville and Westfield and other similar counties, like Marion, Allen and Lake.
Kent Irwin, president of the consulting company, presented some of the findings to the council and the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners in a joint meeting Tuesday and told officials that the county is fairly competitive, especially when it comes to benefits.
He offered a few options for the county to bring some of the lower paid positions in line with the other cities and counties, but there was some initial disagreement over the best solution. Some employees could jump thousands of dollars in pay, while others could be maxed out; Some could earn high rates just for being with the county for many years, while others with a higher skill set could be paid less.
“I don’t think there’s anything we’re going to adopt that solves all our problems,” council member Brad Beaver said.
Eventually, the council settled on using the combined city-county figures at the minimum level. The change would bring everyone up to a minimum salary of about $27,000 or just under $13 per hour. It does not cut any salaries that are above the maximum, which varies by position.
The changes will be applied to the 2016 budget, which has not been prepared yet, so the issue will likely resurface in budget hearings. The additional expense would have been $124,125 based on 2015 salaries.
There are 18 different categories of employees identified in the county that are separated based on skill level needed, years of experience required and job duties and responsibilities.
The lowest paying category includes some clerical and receptionist positions. Here's what the pay range looks like:
- Minimum: $24,178 (old system) $26,932 (new system)
- Maximum: $34,913 (old) $38,782 (new)
The highest pay range category includes an administrator in the health department, project manager in the highway department and three other executives. Here are the old and new ranges:
- Minimum: $66,784 (old) $73,647 (new)
- Maximum: $96,468 (old) $106,052 (new)
All of the employees were already above the new minimum, and all but one was already over the previous maximum.
The salary range for the lowest level in the labor, trades and craft division, which is mostly custodians and cooks, seemed to be a sticking point. Some of the commissioners want the minimum countywide salary increased even higher to at least $29,000, or less than $14 per hour, because any future across the board percentage increases have less of an impact on the lowest earners.
“We’ve always addressed the upper end of our pay scale,” county commissioner Steve Dillinger said.
A majority of the council argued if the minimum salary was increased, then the other pay ranges would have to be adjusted as well, which wasn’t something they wished to do. Plus, the lower-end salaries for jobs like custodians are in line with the surrounding area.
“I don’t necessarily agree with market-driven decisions with some of these position,” Altman said, arguing all of their employees should be able to live comfortably on their salaries.
The following is the salary range for those custodians and cooks:
- Minimum: $24,437 (old) $27,290 (new)
- Maximum: $35,287 (old) $39,298 (new)
All of these numbers are based on 2015 salaries, and 2016 salaries haven't been decided yet. Beaver hinted that next year's budget might be tight, so raises could be questionable.
"We feel like the economy is recovering, but revenue coming to the county is flat," Beaver said.