JoAnn Kalenak, DCCR Senior Blogger — After several days of public hearings and work sessions, Delta County is close to completing the 2019 county budget. Top on the list of budget requests from most department heads were staff raises above the two percent cost of living raise proposed by county administration. Many also requested additional staff citing growing workloads and long-term under staffing.
“I have good people and want to keep them,” says County Clerk and Recorder Teri Stephenson.”
County revenue has seen good growth over the past three years from increased property tax collection, county fees and sales tax revenue growth. Coupled with high county reserve funds, employees of Delta County are looking to recover from a decade of little-to-no wage increases and hiring cutbacks.
“I’ve haven’t been fully staffed since 2008,” says Larry Record, District 1 Foreman for Road and Bridge.
According to County Technical Services, Inc.’s (CTSI) 2018 Annual Salary Survey, most of Delta County’s top employees are earning above the median range of comparable salaries for a county whose annual budget is less than $50 million. In Delta County, who employs about 230 people, the top eleven positions comprise 10% of the personnel budget.
The State sets compensation for all elected officials. After a long hiatus without salary increases, Senate Bill 15-288 gave commissioners four salary options on which they could vote, including the choice not to raise commissioner salaries at all. In 2015, Delta County Commissioners opted to raise their salaries by 21 percent, which took the $58,500 yearly wage to $70,200 (they could have gone as high as $76,050). The raise only affected newly elected and re-elected commissioners who won their seats in the 2016 race.
One large outlier among the top salaries is not a county employee at all, but rather a contract planner. Kelly Yeager has been contracted by the county for the past four years at a rate of $60 per hour making him among the highest paid people in Delta County government. Although the planning department has allocated $80,000 per year for Yeager’s services, the bill has consistently come in at around $100,000.
Yeager’s services again appear in the 2019 proposed county budget at $60 per hour. CTSI’s salary survey puts a planner for a county comparable to Delta County at $28 per hour. Add 23 percent for benefits to CTSI’s salary rate and Yeager’s fee is slightly less than double what a full-time, county planning hire makes in a comparable market.
Community and Economic Development Director, Elyse Ackerman-Casselberry told Commissioners at this week’s public hearings that while she wasn’t asking for wage increases for her staff above the two percent proposed by administration, she did want to increase the timeframe for Yeager’s contract from June 2019 to October 2019 citing the land-use regulation re-write work, the management of which she plans to keep “in-house.”
Citizen Report asked Casselberry whether contract planning services had been bid each fiscal year. “No, it has not been.” replied Casselberry.