Finney County commissioners on Monday agreed to look at cost estimates for a potential wage study comparing county employee salaries to similar jobs in the public sector, but likely won't make any decision regarding future salaries until next summer's 2014 budget preparation discussions.
Commissioners gave Darlene Lucas, county human resources coordinator, the go-ahead to request proposals from various vendors about how much they would charge for a study. The county is under no obligation to actually pay for a study now, and even if a study is eventually performed, the county isn't obligated to implement any of the findings or recommendations.
Lucas said it doesn't cost anything but her time to seek vendor quotes. It's been six years since the county last compared its wages to others.
"Because of the fluidity of business today, good decisions are made with current data," she said. "For instance, you wouldn't buy stock without good data."
Lucas estimated the cost for a wage study could range anywhere from $20,000 to $70,000, with the difference in cost depending on the study's level of detail and focus. She expects any study mostly will compare how Finney County compares to other public organizations, such as the city of Garden City.
"I'd just like to be able to compete with the city. I'm having a very difficult time recruiting," Lucas said.
To illustrate the difficulty of recruiting and retaining quality employees, Lucas said three out of five applicants for a recent entry level job had a felony record. And last month, the county lost an employee with 10 years of experience to the state, which paid $7 an hour more for essentially the same job.
"I'd like to be able to bring you the information so you can see what it costs us. When the numbers come back, you can say whether you're willing to invest that kind of money in a study, and then the next step is do you want to follow through with what the study says," Lucas said.
While the county can't compete with the private sector, which generally offers higher pay, Lucas said it would help if the county could at least compete with other public entities "right next door."
Commissioner Dave Jones said any study, if one is done, should include all wage earners, elected and non-elected personnel, because the last study left out the top steps of the pay scale, which caused some complaints.
"If we're going to do a study, study it all," he said.
Lucas said preparing a request for proposals will take a few weeks. Then it would take another several months, assuming a study is funded, to gather data and make recommendations.
In other business, the commission added $1 million in umbrella liability coverage to its insurance coverage, with a $27,452 premium. That amount is in addition to the $1 million the county had in existing general liability coverage that has a $41,000 premium.
Health insurance rates for county employees are scheduled to go up about 13 percent next year.
County administrator Randy Partington said Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Kansas recently provided anticipated cost increases for 2013 for the county's self-insured plan. For 2013, county employees will face higher premiums per pay period.
An individual employee's insurance deduction will be $32.42, a $4.24 increase; an employee with dependents will be $116.71, a $15.25 increase; an employee and spouse would be $123.19, a $16.09 increase; and a family plan would be $129.67, a $16.94 increase.