MARINETTE — The Administrative Committee of the Marinette County Board of Supervisors voted 6-0 on Thursday to recommend pay raises effective Jan. 1 of 2020 of between about 2 and 2.5 percent for most county employees covered by the Carlson-Dettmann wage and compensation study.

The recommendation to be considered by the full county board in accordance with the study calls for all employees below step 11 without a step 2 or higher discipline within the proceeding two years to  advance one step. The committee took similar action for raises of the same amount to be granted this year.

Supervisor John Guarisco made the motion, with a second from Supervisor Don Pazynski, to recommend the pay adjustments be approved by the full county board.

Supervisor Vilas Schroeder, committee chairperson, asked County Administrator John Lefebvre what the impact of the raises would be on the county’s 2020 budget, which is currently being developed.

“I think we’re in that $400,000 range budget-wise,” Lefebvre said. “That depends on what positions are retiring, they would likely be on top of the payscale. And the people we’ll be hiring would be coming in for possibly less.”

He also explained that some positions, like some of those in Health and Human Services, are partially funded by grants.

Guarisco asked if the raises automatically take effect according to the guidelines approved with the study.

“We have it in our policies,” Lefebvre said. “But this committee is actually responsible for making the decision as to what we’re going to pay our employees. That is part of the requirements of the authorization of this committee. We bring it to this committee every year to make sure you’re in agreement.”

“If I were dissenting, it would really upset the apple cart,” Guarisco said.

“Yes,” Lefebvre said. “If it comes to where we get to a budgeting standpoint, I will do my best to make sure that we fund the positions to stay competitive in the marketplace and figure out a way to trim our budget in some other area without affecting services.”

“If I ever get to the point where I can’t do that, I’ll be standing in front of you well in advance of this period of time saying ‘hey we really need to look at how we give increases and how often and who we give increases to,’” he added. “I’m not to that point yet.”

Pazynski said “don’t we have a prior commitment for employees to get this?”

“I wouldn’t say it’s a prior commitment,” replied Lefebvre. “I would just say it’s currently in our policy. If we’re going to stray from our policy, we should go to our policy and change that too.”

Pazynski said “I would not suggest that we stray (from our policy).”

“We put this policy in the wage study,” Lefebvre said. “I believe we are staying competitive in the marketplace (because of it). As poor as the market is now to get employees, I think we’re staying competitive. We’re still competing with Oconto and Brown counties.”

He said some recent examples of how the county has been competitive in recruiting employees was the hiring of a county commissioner, medical examiner and veterans service officer from Brown County and a  corrections officer from Oconto County.

“So we’re paying a decent wage for living in this particular area,” Lefebvre said. 

He said earlier Thursday at the Job Center at NWTC he told county economic support workers about why he sought to get a costly benefit for county employees cut.

The county board voted last December to remove the option for retirees to elect to receive both eight years of retiree’s health insurance and sick bank health reimbursement account payout in an effort to save the county more than $730,000. The change is scheduled to take effect June 30.

“I came to the county board not long ago and said we need to do something about the benefit upon retirement,” Lefebvre explained. “That’s one of the reasons we’re getting retirements, we’re taking part of that benefit away to the tune of almost three-quarters of a million dollars. The reason for me to propose that was so we can afford to give annual (pay) increases because that’s the only way we can attract good quality workers.”

He said “workers nowadays are looking short-term.”

“They’re looking at what are you going to pay me now, what are you going to pay the next year or the following year?” Lefebvre said. “They’re not looking at if I stay with the county for 20 or 30 years, what are you going to give me when I walk out the door?”

“So I’m more interested in staying competitive in the short-term than in what the long-term benefit is going to be,” he added. “I’m hoping we’re going to get the funds (for the 2020 raises) from the savings from employees leaving us and we don’t have a budget payout.”