County raises its minimum pay

MARK MARBERRY | Oct 24, 2019

County officials contended with wage increases Tuesday when the St. Francois County Commission met in regular session at the courthouse annex.

Human Resources Director Corey Schrum presented a study on the costs of raising the county’s minimum wage to either $11.50 or $12 per hour.

“There were two parts to this that we were wanting to do,” she said. “We were wanting to raise the minimum starting pay for new employees and bump up those that are currently below $12. Then also for the annual raise what we give employees, we are wanting to do the 1.9% for the cost of living adjustment (cola), and then the 50 cents instead of a quarter.

“Right now there are 11 employees that are under the $12. Over the next couple of years the minimum wage in Missouri is going up to $12 anyway, so we just wanted to go ahead and bump that up. We don’t want to be the highest paid in the area, but right now we are close to the lowest. Make it a little more attractive for new employees coming in.”

Presiding Commissioner Harold Gallaher summarized the two possibilities. The $11.50 minimum would affect eight employees and that would cost about $6,370 per year, or the $12 minimum would affect 11 employees and cost a total of $16,055 per year.

During discussion on the motion to raise the county minimum wage, Associate Commissioner Patrick Mullins recommended using the higher amount.

“If we go with the lower amount, you’re looking at doing this again in the ensuing year, is that correct?” he asked.

Schrum affirmed the question.

Mullins continued, “I personally don’t want to rehash this out, and second, it’s my understanding that this will be easily absorbed, is that correct?”

Gallaher answered, “Budget-wise, yes.”

County Clerk Kevin Engler addressed the concern of raising the minimum wage without giving raises to other employees.

“One of the effects is some compaction,” he said. “If you raise the minimum wage, the ones that are just above the minimum wage, we are going to have to address that when you were talking about doing the individual work evaluations next year when they do their internal control audit. That could be addressed at that point if there’s some people that are just above the minimum wage that have been here for a period of time.”

“We don’t want somebody that has been here two years to be making exactly what a new hire would make,” Gallaher added.

Engler agreed, “That’s exactly right, they’re going to have to adjust up. If you’re going to do the other action, they will get a 50-cent raise, so they will go up some, but there is still going to be somewhere their job requirements are higher than entry level, those will have to be addressed in the job descriptions.”

Mullins brought up the generous compensation package the county supplies aside from the hourly wage.

“I would like to point out, thanks to Louie [Seiberlich] and Amber [Menjoulet] in the auditor’s office for giving me a breakdown, at the $11 an hour annual salary, it talks about the benefits package. In my opinion it’s a nice benefits package,” he said. “The holidays, the LAGERs match, the insurance, vacations, sick pay … The holidays, that does count. We mirror the state holidays, that’s something to take into consideration.

“Even at the $11 an hour, including the benefits package, is at $18.40, so if we can get it at $12, I think we are being fair.”

Mullins revisited recent raise requests that the county has not acted on.

“I also want to be cognizant to other employees that just a few months back, we tabled their requests,” he said. “They’ve been here a number of years, so I want to continue to revisit that and I think it is in the best interests in the county to try to get that figured out. We want to take care of our employees, but we also want to be cognizant of the taxpayer.”

Engler explained one of Schrum’s new tasks regarding compensation that is planned for next year.

“One of the things she is going to do this spring after everybody gets their complete pay … because I don’t think that many people know what the total package is … every employee in the county will get a letter thanking them for their service and reflecting how much those benefits have been put out to them,” he said. “What their total compensation, not just your W2 earnings, here’s how much we put in your retirement, insurance, the other benefits.”

County Auditor Louie Seiberlich had questions on the increase.

“As I understand it, you’re going to raise this $12 beginning when?” he asked.

Schrum explained that this increase would start at the first of the year.

“That will not include any raises that’s going to be voted on for the coming year?” Seiberlich asked.

Schrum answered, “It will not.”

The motion passed to raise the county employee minimum wage to $12 an hour at the beginning of 2020.

Schrum then discussed the departmental wage study for the year 2020. The plan is for a one-year only adjustment of a 1.9% increase for non-elected salary employees and a 50-cent increase for hourly employees.

“Next year we would go through with the auditors,” she said. “As they do their internal control, get a better feel for the job descriptions and get all that documented, so that whenever we get these raise requests and title changes, we can take a look at that and compare those titles.”

When questioned by Gallaher, Schrum said that she had looked at the budget to see if this proposal could be funded.

“From what I heard from the auditors, there may be some departments that may be a little bit tight, as far as doing that, like the sheriff’s office,” Schrum said. “But from what I understand they do have the money there. Some of them like Child Support, of course, that’s fully reimbursable by the state of Missouri, so we would need to make sure that we would get reimbursed for that.”

The county approved the wage and salary increases.