County freezes annual raises for employees
Anticipating a decrease in state aid and other economic challenges, Douglas County administrators have frozen the annual 1 percent raise for county employees.
County officials are also considering freezing merit raises — valued at about $400,000 for 2009 — for more than 300 county employees. County commissioners would have to make the final decisions on the raises.
“We want to make sure to preserve all of our options,” County Administrator Craig Weinaug told commissioners Monday. “It’s important for you to have as many options as possible.”
The county has been bracing for more than a year for a decrease in revenue, such as making three layoffs part of the 2009 budget and offering an early-retirement incentive that 16 longtime employees accepted.
Administrators made the announcement last week to county employees about freezing the annual 1 percent raises, which would save the county about $97,000. Weinaug and Assistant County Administrator Pam Madl said they acted now in January to avoid some employees getting raises while others did not.
With those raises, county employees automatically receive a 1 percent raise on the anniversary date of their hire. Employees are also eligible to receive merit raises in October after an evaluation.
County leaders are concerned not only with a decrease in revenue from property and sales taxes but also the expectation the Legislature would decrease aid to the county by possibly about $450,000.
The county ended the 2008 budget year with at least $1 million more than leaders expected based on cuts at the end of the year.
One commissioner Monday morning said he wanted administrators to give commissioners a clearer budget picture, including general costs and capital improvements.
“I’m troubled by spending money on things when our human capital and the county’s personnel is at issue,” Commissioner Jim Flory said.
Weinaug said administrators and department leaders were also looking at any cost-cutting measures that would not affect personnel. He said county leaders were hopeful the picture could improve and employees would still receive raises, but that’s up in the air.
“I think it’s reasonable to conclude with the downturn we’re in, we will probably continue to be in for at least a couple of years,” Weinaug said.