Everyone deserves fair and equitable pay for a good day’s work. But what does “fair and equitable” look like to a county employee — or to the taxpayer footing the bill — when typical comparisons just don’t line up?
Determining competitive wage and salary scales for the 241 employees of Delta County government is far from a clear-cut science. The size of the county’s annual budget, its government structure, the length of employment in a specific position, and the cost of living in the area are just a few of the factors involved.
With so many considerations, how does the county decide what to pay its employees? Citizen Report’s investigation reveals that some salaries are based on a statewide survey often used by county officials, while others are subjective and arbitrary.
County Technical Services, Inc. (CTSI) does the survey employed by many human resource departments —especially those in small, rural areas. A Colorado county membership organization, CTSI’s primary service is to provide insurance products to county governments. The organization also provides human resource services including a yearly salary survey that analyses job titles and salaries from counties who opted to provide the information. Of the 64 counties in Colorado, 53 are members of CTSI and 26 reported positions and salaries in 2017 including: Alamosa, Clear Creek, Conejos, Crowley, Custer, Delta, Fremont, Grand, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Kiowa, Logan, Montrose, Morgan, Ouray, Prowers, Pueblo, Rio Blanco, Routt, Saguache, San Juan, Summit, Teller, Washington, Weld, and Yuma.
CTSI’s survey lists typical county positions and is broken into two sections: benchmark salaries by average, median, middle, and maximum; and by county budget. For our comparison table, Citizen Report chose to report the average salary since it closely mirrored the suggested salary for a county with a budget of 10-50 million dollars. NOTE: We calculated annual salaries using multipliers of 40 hours and 52 weeks. Download the table.
Some anomalies stood out in our analysis where Delta County’s payroll is concerned. A part-time contractor at almost double the average salary of a full time staffer, for example, is fulfilling the county’s Senior Planner duties. In 2016, planning contractor Kelly Yeager earned $88,680 ($70,000 was budgeted) and in 2017, Yeager is estimated to end the year earning $96,000 (again, $70,000 was budgeted). In the county’s 2018 draft budget, the planning department is asking for $80,000 for contract services. Administrator Robbie LeValley reported earlier this year that Yeager’s contract would end in 2017. Today, she confirmed that Yeager will stay on to help see the Master Plan update through to completion.
Another position and salary worth noting is the newly created Community & Economic Development Director’s job — a title generally found in counties with much higher budgets. Elyse Casselberry was hired in mid-year 2017 to this position, originally advertised at $57,000 in annual salary and a 32-hour workweek. While Casselberry maintains 32 hours per week, her starting salary is $90,000. The position’s job description strongly emphasizes supervisory responsibility, which helps justify the high starting salary, however, it’s unclear whether any staff reports directly to Casselberry. The job description states “supervision exercise: to be determined.” Citizen Report contacted Administrator LeValley to clarify the supervisory role and had not heard back at the time of this posting. (To help put this into perspective, the position of County Health and Human Resources Director is held by Chuck Lemoine, a 25-year county employee currently earning $92,408 per year, managing a large staff and a 4.25 million dollar budget.)
Citizens are invited to review the draft budget before the budget hearing tentatively scheduled for Dec. 4, 2017. DELTA COUNTY DRAFT BUDGET
SEE HOW OTHER COUNTYS PRESENT THEIR BUDGETS
READ THE OTHER STORIES IN OUR 2017 BUDGET SERIES