Cavalier County Commission discuss budgets at last meeting

The Cavalier County Commission attended to regular business during their meeting on Tuesday, August 6. The Commission dealt with a variety of issues from department updates to courthouse maintenance to budgets.

Posted 8/8/19

By Melissa Anderson

The commissioners discussed the possibility of creating a foreman to be the point of contact between the Commission and the roadmen of Cavalier County. This recommendation was put forward by commissioner Nick Moser as a way to have a consistent direction for roadmen as they go about maintaining Cavalier County roadways. The Commission discussed the idea and agreed that this would be a good way to have a more effective department.

Cavalier County Auditor Lisa Gellner explained that following the completion of the remodel of bathrooms at the north end of the courthouse, the faucets in those bathrooms will need to be replaced. Gellner explained that before she can send in the final paperwork for the CBDG grant, the regular faucets that were installed need to be replaced with motion activated ones. The Commission approved the motion to amend the submission of the grant until this was completed.

The commissioners also reviewed the preliminary budget. There were major concerns with the issue of salary. Commissioner Greg Goodman was especially frustrated with the process as he noted that the Commission gave a 3 percent salary increase to all county employees in May and then, during the budgeting process, departments requested additional compensation.

“I was disappointed with this because that’s what I thought the salary committee was supposed to serve as,” Greg Goodman said.

He also noted that a salary survey conducted by the HR officer has caused issue amongst the county employees as well. The commissioners will be reviewing the salary survey more in depth after the budgeting but have included the salary adjustment potential for some county employees.

“Everybody is getting a 3 percent raise, and beyond that, all we are doing in the budgeting process is preparing for any potential salary adjustments,” Goodman said. “We have not approved adjustments for the roadmen. We have not approved the adjustments that have been proposed by Crystal for the Sheriff’s Department, but we have  got a budget to approve, and we have numbers in there to make those things work, but I don’t want to get this budget process confused with any type of salary adjustment for county employees.”

The Commission clarified that the budget must have the room for that potential salary adjustment that has been proposed within the salary guideline created by Cavalier County HR Officer Crystal Beggs. This issue relates to the discovery made by Beggs; in her research she found that the Cavalier County Sheriff’s Department is compensated at approximately 15 percent under the fair market value for those positions. The roadmen were also found to be underpaid in comparison to fair market value.

“To budget for it, we have to have these numbers in there cause if we do have these increases and we decide in May of next year, at least we are covered in our budget without amending our budget,” Moser said.

Commission Chair Dave Zeis noted that Beggs was given a very short time frame to prepare the survey, and the commissioners have not yet been able to thoroughly review the information. As the Commission discussed, the comparison for set hours per week was agreed that 40 hours per week for salaried and non-exempt was more practical and fair than using a 35 hours a week. Years of service was also a marker that had been noted as a benchmark for salary.  There were questions as to how this should or would be worked into the guideline.

“It’s things I think we need to actually discuss at length with Crystal here. These are all things we need to go through before we actually implement any policy,” Zeis stated.

Other issues that would need to be discussed are whether or not there would be a cost of living increase each year or just a flat increase. Moser noted that there is still five months in 2019 which would allow the commissioners to work with the survey to determine if there are increases that need to be made. The decision could be made by January of 2020. The guideline created was based on a 35 hour work week and the information provided to the county to determine payment to the employees within the county.

“The data that came out of there, whether we are 35 hours or 40 hours or this person has more responsibility or whatever, the thing that came out of that to me is that if we need to do salary adjustments, where the county has been deficient on, is the Sheriff’s Department in terms of pay,” Goodman said.

The realization comes at a time when there are over 100 hundred open positions in law enforcement within the state. The concern of maintaining competitive pay for positions so that when the need arises for new employees, the positions are attractive while still being fair to current employees. Currently, half of the county budget is strictly for the salary and benefits of county employees.

“By 2021 budget we should be able to get firm numbers and get salaries implemented to fair market value, where we need to be across the board, and there may be a few that are higher than fair market. It’s going to take 5 years to get to where we need to be,” Moser said.

The preliminary budget only contains the 3 percent raise that was agreed to by the Commission in May and  the review of the Sheriff’s Department salaries. The preliminary budget will include a mill increase of 6 mills. The commissioners approved the preliminary budget.

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