CEDAR CITY – The Iron County Commission plans to spend $370,000 to increase employee benefits in 2017 after funding a countywide pay raise this year totaling $750,000, but some elected leaders argue it’s not enough to maintain quality employees on the payroll.
Iron County Sheriff Mark Gower told commissioners in a letter read by sheriff’s Lt. Del Schlosser during a 2017 tentative budget hearing Monday, he was “disappointed and discouraged” to see that none of the Iron County employees received a wage increase this year.
Gower, who was attending a fellow officer’s funeral, wrote, “even a small increase would have been appreciated by employees.”
“Morale is already low and this will only drive it lower,” Gower said in the letter. “I firmly believe that keeping competitive with our salaries and taking good care of our exceptional employees will save Iron County money in the long run.”
Schlosser told the commission the Sheriff’s Office had two employees earlier this year look for work elsewhere because of the pay scale.
It costs the Sheriff’s Office around $30,000 to $40,000 to train a new employee, the sheriff added.
Commissioners cut the upcoming Sheriff’s Office budget by approximately $182,000, the second funding reduction in two years. In 2016, the commission reduced it by about $240,000.
Gower’s letter went on to suggest the commissioners use the money they saved from cutting his budget for two years to fund wage increases.
Regardless, there is no plan to give any wage increases this year, Commissioner Dale Brinkerhoff said.
“The problem is we (the commissioners) don’t believe the Iron County taxpayers have an obligation to provide a higher level of living to county employees than they enjoy themselves,” Brinkerhoff said.
Interim Commissioner Casey Anderson said he hopes the commissioners are being recognized by county employees for last year’s wage increases and the 2017 benefit package in which the commission agreed to entirely fund a 10 percent premium increase and return a $500 contribution to the health savings plan that was taken away this year.
“I know I’ve had a lot of positive feedback from county employees and department heads and other elected officials on that,” Anderson said.
During the budget hearing, Iron County Assessor Cindy Bulloch reiterated Gower’s words, telling commissioners she recently lost an employee of 24 years that left to seek a better job.
“I don’t care how much you pay it’s going to take me forever to get that amount of service and background back into my office,” Bulloch said. “It is costing me much much more than it would’ve been to pay her a competitive salary.”
Bulloch argued the costs associated with training new employees are higher than if the commission would pay competitive wages to keep the ones they already have.
Iron County resident Bruce Washburn, commenting during the public hearing, expressed concern about the commissioners funding the American Lands Council again in 2017 with $7,500.
The ALC is a nonprofit organization comprised of elected leaders, local governments, nonprofit organizations, businesses, resource experts and citizens that want “more accountable management of our public lands and natural resources.”
“Maybe that money needs to be used for funding salaries or something,” Washburn said. “I don’t think it’s an appropriate use of taxpayers’ money.”
The commission approved the tentative 2017 budget Monday. The public is invited to pick up a copy of the budget at the auditor’s office in Parowan at 68 S. 100 E. or call (435) 477-3940. Public comments are also welcome.
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