The Garden City Telegram
11/7/2012
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

Public pay

County should know how compensation stacks up.

When it comes to recruiting and retaining good employees, governments have unique challenges.

For one, they have to be competitive, as private-sector employers often have more to offer in wages and benefits.

Public employers also have to be mindful of spending decisions involving taxpayer dollars.

In Finney County, another ongoing challenge has been in competing against other public employers who should be on a level playing field, but often manage to offer more in pay.

That challenge led county commissioners Monday to approve a request to determine the proposed cost of enlisting a service to perform a new wage study — one estimated at $20,000 to $70,000. (Although, perhaps the county could reduce the expense by contacting governments on its own to access details on pay and other compensation that's public information.)

It has been six years since a county wage study. Much has changed during that time due to the recession, as many employers — both public and private — were forced to streamline their operations with pay freezes, furloughs and layoffs.

The goal is to compare how Finney County wages now compare to similar counties or city governments. After all, it's easy to see how coming up short in compensation could result in good employees making the move to other counties for similar positions that pay more.

And that always hurts, considering the additional cost to bring in and train new workers.

The county isn't alone in dealing with the challenge. Many employers here know it's necessary to compare their positions with jobs elsewhere, and pay at or even above the norm to maintain a productive workforce.

That said, a county wage study wouldn't focus on a comparison of pay in the private sector. It's a given that public employees generally will make less money than their counterparts at a private business.

The bottom line is all employers trying to keep or recruit workers, whether in public or private settings, must craft aggressive strategies that help them maintain their most important asset: good employees.

With that in mind, local officials could use more information on how the county's pay measures up against its peers.