Are county employees paid fairly? Study considered

The Brown County Council is considering doing a formal study of job descriptions and pay for county employees.

But council members are not sure yet if the study, estimated at $40,000 plus travel expenses over six to eight months, will be as in-depth as they would like it to be in order to make any changes.

The council froze county employees’ pay in the last couple of years because of budget concerns but has since lifted that freeze.

What council members would like to see is a breakdown of how salary money is being spent by Brown County departments and how that compares to another “like” county in Indiana, to make sure salaries haven’t become “skewed” over the years.

There was debate, though, about what a “like” county to Brown County would be. County employees in the audience wondered whether it was more fair to compare salaries of employees in neighboring counties — to which Brown County has lost some of its employees for better pay — or to compare them to a county of like size which might not have as large of a tourist influx or so much property-tax-exempt land.

“We’re unique,” said Brown County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Brad Stogsdill. “There’s no counties like us.”

A couple employees said it was important for any study to consider the volume of work they are doing and the number of jobs they are covering as opposed to a larger county that might employ more people to do that work.

The salary study proposal the council is considering is from a Muncie company which would distribute questionnaires to county employees, prepare new job descriptions based on the answers, review each job for compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act, and compare salaries of like jobs in the county and outside the county.

Council President David Critser asked members if they would actually act on the results — for instance, if they showed that someone was overpaid. He said he hasn’t been convinced to pay for a study; that money could fund raises instead.

Councilman Darren Byrd said he’s advocated for a study in order to make sure some offices don’t feel “left out” when pay grade changes are made, and to make sure duties haven’t been shifted onto someone else while a person’s pay remains the same.

He said in order to make the budget work, he’d be willing to make changes if the study showed that someone was overpaid.

Critser and councilman Keith Baker said they wouldn’t vote to cut someone’s pay if a study showed it was higher than it should be; they would grandfather it and change it with the next hire.

Critser said any changes wouldn’t take effect until the 2019 budget cycle.

He appointed a three-member committee to take a closer look at the proposal — Byrd, Baker and council member Glenda Stogsdill — before it’s discussed again at the April 17 council meeting.

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Sara Clifford has been raising a family in Brown County since 2005 and leading the Brown County Democrat since late 2009. In addition to editor, she is the beat reporter for town government and writes columns, features and general news stories.