Taxpayers pay big for planning hire

Director of Community and Economic Development Elyse Casselberry has hired long-time planning consultant Kelly Yeager as a permanent employee. Yeager, who had been contracted by Delta County for the past four years, was quietly hired on February 1 as the county’s new “Current Planning Manager” at an annual salary of $92,000-plus-mileage and benefits.

Yeager’s work assignments with the county will be similar to those he performed as a contract planner where he earned more than $100,000 per year in contract fees. He will have no supervisory responsibility, but additional tasks have been added to the job description. David Rice, who last held the senior planning position, earned a top salary of $65,556 annually as a full-time employee with a supervisory role.

At $92,000 a year, Yeager joins the top 10% of county employees making the highest salaries while other department managers earn much lower wages including the Human Services Public Health Director at $73,905; top Police Sergeant at $59,449; Engineering Coordinator (top engineering position) at $60,953; GIS Analyst/Coordinator (top GIS position) at $57,079; and the Child Welfare Manager at $59,820.

Unlike the Federal government and many private companies, Delta County has no pay scale system to help ensure competitive market wages and equitable pay among coworkers. According to the wage calculator offered by, which takes an area’s cost of living into account, a G10, Step 6 employee (managerial with several years of experience) would be paid about $65,000/year in Delta County.

In earlier reports, county leadership told DCCR that they investigate comparable wages from other local governments when deciding on appropriate salary ranges. DCCR’s research, however, reveals that Gunnison County pays its long-time planner $81,000/year, Montrose County pays $42,432 and San Miguel County pays $62,000. Further, a 2018 County Salary Survey done by County Technical Services, Inc., lists the average annual salary for a planner at $59,405 for counties with comparable budgets to that of Delta County.

With the addition of the cost of benefits, Casselberry’s $95,000/year salary — also higher than others in comparable counties — and Yeager’s $92,000/year salary adds up to almost $225,000 in taxpayer funds. Much less seems to be the norm.