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Wood County examining county employee compensation


WISCONSIN RAPIDS, WI (WSAU) -  Wood County is considering changes to the way it compensates county employees. Right now, there are several different compensation scales created under past bargaining agreements with labor unions. There are also no unions currently certified in Wood County government, and supervisors are looking at ways to make all positions compensated at a fair rate based on the labor market for similar jobs.

Charlie Carlson from the Carlson-Dettman consulting firm is collecting data and offering supervisors options for making standardized and fair compensation scales for county staff.

County Board Chairman Lance Pliml says Wood County employees have already made adjustments prior to Wisconsin Act 10’s passage. He says they now want to be sure their staff is treated fairly.Pliml is unsure of what the study will show, but early data collection shows Wood County has a few positions that are not compensated the way they should be.  "We still don't know how it's going to shake out because we have not seen the metric yet, where we actually lay those pay scales to those metrics, but my guess is that we're probably going to have to compensate some of our people in those upper-level management jobs a little better and we probably have some entry-level jobs that are probably overpaid based on availability in market.”The study is expected to be finished fairly quickly, and Pliml says the County Board may be able to take action at the next meeting.  He believes the change to a pay-for-performance or similar system will be best for Wood County’s taxpayers and staff in the long run.  "I think if you talk to the taxpayer out there, they're going to say it's about time government acted a little bit more like the private sector and was responsible for the work that they do and at a market rate." adding, "The taxpayers shouldn't be on the hook for paying more than that and yet by the same token we can't just take advantage of our employees out there."

Several other counties and cities are going through similar evaluations of their compensation programs. 

Pliml says changes will be necessary to ensure long-term viability of benefits such as health insurance or retirement. He says there are situations now where an employee’s cost for benefits is more dollars per hour than their pay. They are also focussed on having one standard for how much an employee’s co-pays would be. Pliml says several county board members expressed concern about the present high health coverage premiums and would like to entertain other vendor bids.