County employees benefit from surplus |

County employees benefit from surplus

by Amy Alonzo

A one-time pay increase for county employees was approved by Douglas County commissioners Monday afternoon during a special meeting.

The payments, totaling nearly $450,000, will be pulled from a surplus in the county’s fund balance. The surplus primarily stems from vacant positions within the county, said Vicky Moore, the county’s interim chief financial officer.

Commissioners voted 5-0 to approve one-time payments of $1,027.60 for workers represented by the Douglas County Employees’ Association. Payments are expected to total about $138,000.

This is in addition to a payment equal to 1.5 percent of an employee’s salary that was approved in July to be implemented on each employee’s hire date, as well as a 1 percent lump sum payment per employee in August, according to commissioner Steve Thaler.

Commissioners also voted 4-1 to approve one-time payments for employees not represented by the association equal to 2 percent of their base wages as of July 1, 2016 or their date of hire, whatever is later. The total estimated cost is about $303,000. Commissioner Dave Nelson cast the lone dissenting vote.

The payments, to be issued no later than March 31, are in addition to 1 percent lump-sum payments previously approved by the board in lieu of merit increases, according to a memo provided by the county.

There are about 350 nonrepresented employees, according to Wendy Lang, director of human resources. Of those employees, 154 are part-time, 93 are in management positions, 64 are court employees who can’t belong to the association and 48 are professionally exempt, she said.

Before the vote commissioners Thaler and Larry Walsh both disclosed they have family members who are part-time county employees.

“I question why we spend money on pretty well-paid employees … instead of [the] county’s needs,” Bob Ballou of Minden said during public comment. “I think what’s being proposed here is the equivalent of a participation trophy.”

Commissioner Nancy McDermid disagreed.

“You cannot provide services if you don’t have personnel to do it,” she said. “We will not always have ending fund balances. I would remind everyone, this is one-time money.”

Merit increases for county employees were frozen in 2011. The cuts were partially, but not fully, restored in FY 2015-16, according to county documents.