Panel weighs county payDouglas County is embarking on a six-month journey to determine if county workers are earning what their counterparts in the private sector are making.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
Douglas County is embarking on a six-month journey to determine if county workers are earning what their counterparts in the private sector are making.
A panel of employees, managers, county board supervisors and citizens came together to discuss the process the county would undertake to come up with a plan to ensure county employees are fairly compensated.
The Compensation Steering Committee will work with county administration and human resources to help determine the consultant hired to undertake the study.
The study will look at the 51 pay grades for 81 job classifications held by 276 people that work on a regular basis in the county’s 24 departments. The study doesn’t include seasonal workers.
“A lot of counties and municipalities have been doing this in the wake of Act 10,” Lisak said of the state budget repair bill that stripped most public employees of most of their collective bargaining rights. “What we have found that as counties go into this new territory … it’s to try to better understand how we’re compensating individuals compared to the market and make sure that we’re being fair and equitable. On the one hand, we don’t want to over compensate; on the other hand, we definitely don’t want to under compensate. We want to attract and keep qualified individuals.”
Lisak said his goal is to make sure the process is open; it’s part of the panel’s mission.
During the process, the committee would meet with the consultant on three occasions to offer guidance and question the process to ensure the right comparisons are made during the study.
“Especially when we look at our area, our proximity to Duluth, and the fact that we’re part of the Duluth-Superior metropolitan area, puts us in a relatively unique situation,” Lisak said. He said that proximity requires Douglas County to look beyond Wisconsin’s borders to Duluth because of job competition in the area.
“We don’t want a cookie-cutter approach where a consultant comes in and says we’ve got the comparables,” Lisak said. “We want to ensure the consultant understands where we’re at geographically and be able to provide information that makes sense for us.”
While salaries and wages will be the primary focus of the study, the consultant will also be asked to weigh in on benefits included in the county’s employment package to render an opinion.
“Different consultants will have different takes,” Lisak said. “… I think we’re going to see what the consultant has to say.”
He said the panel will also provide guidance and serve as a sounding board for the consultant, as well as share information about the process and bring back concerns others may have about the process
Panel member Charlie Glazeman, associate dean of Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College, questioned whether the county was having issues with compensation.
Lisak said while there have been issues hiring professionals in the Health and Human Services Department, he said the county’s not certain if compensation is the problem.
Initially, Lisak said, the county was going to look at that group, but the fallout from there would affect people in other departments.
The last time the county had a study of the scope planned was in the early 1990s, said Linda Corbin of Douglas County Human Resources. In 2000, a similar study with a hired consultant conducted a review of compensation for clerical staff, she said.
Rather than go through a piecemeal process the county is looking for a consultant to review all its positions.
“Any plan that the consultant comes up with is going to come to this steering committee,” Lisak said.
The panel would then review the plan before it forwarding it to the county’s administration committee, which manages personnel and finance issues, before going to the full board
Implementation of the plan, expected to be complete Aug. 1, would be determined by the county’s finance and the Douglas County Board.
“Fortunately, we’re going to learn from other counties that have gone through this already,” Lisak said. “We’ve learned a lot from what other folks have done and what they haven’t done.”
The county is beginning to seek proposals for the study. A pre-bid meeting is slated for 9 a.m. Feb. 15 in Room 204 of the Government Center. Bidders can participate by phone. Potential consultants must register interest by Feb. 22 and ask questions until Feb. 27 so the county can share responses with all those registered.
Proposals and costs are due in separate envelopes by 4 p.m. March 1.
The panel meets again March 11 to consider qualifications of the bidders before the costs for the proposals are opened.
For information, call Corbin at 715-395-1464 or email Linda.Corbin@douglascountywi.org.
For pre-bid meeting instructions or to express interest in submitting a bid, email RFPCompensation@