Douglas commissioners all in with worker pay increases

Kurt Hildebrand
Record Courier

STATELINE, Nev. — A proposal to essentially increase county workers’ pay by 9% this year was approved Monday by Douglas County commissioners.

Commissioners accepted a “Human Capital Risk Assessment” that included moving up a 2% cost of living pay increase from July 1 to April 2 and voted for a one-time adjustment of 7% to workers’ pay effective July 1.

Monday’s 5-0 vote didn’t actually implement either increase, but instead gave county staff the go-ahead to bring items forward that would accomplish them.

Human Resources Director Wendy Lang said she planned to bring moving the cost-of-living allowance forward to commissioners at their April 7 meeting.

“The sooner we get this into employees hands the better off we will be,” Lang said.

The 7-percent increase, which amounts to $2.7 million, will be incorporated into the county’s final budget and would take effect on July 1.

Salaries for Douglas Couty commissioners and elected officials are set by statute and won’t be affected by the change.

“This is investing in the most important resource in Douglas County — our employees,” Assistant County Manager Jenifer Davidson said. “We are not keeping pace and having a hard time finding qualified applicants.”

Davidson pointed out that Douglas is facing a “retirement cliff” as the number of county employees eligible to retire is doubling roughly every five years.

As of Monday, there were 52 employees who could retire, and five years from now that number is expected to be around 134.

Commissioners also approved conducting a $100,000 salary survey as they began a four-day budget session on Monday.

The opening session focused on the proposed $52.97 million general fund, which pays for public safety, judicial services, community development and general government.

That last category includes the offices of the assessor, recorder, clerk-treasurer outside of the courts, which is expected to cost $12 million.

County Chief Financial Officer Terri Willoughby said her office works with the elected officials and county administrators to produce their budgets. She said each department is responsible for producing their budget with support from her office.

Public safety is budgeted for $18.87 million in the proposed tentative budget, while the judiciary is budgeted for a nearly $2 million increase to $12.7 million, according to the county.

Much of that increase is the result of changes in state law governing public defenders, mandatory hearings and new reporting requirements.

The courts made a case on Monday to hire an assistant court administrator and a back-up information technician.

Those were among $1.1 million in supplemental requests that will be considered when commissioners are ready to discuss final approval of the tentative budget after they’ve completed hearings.

During a discussion of some of the supplemental budget requests, Commissioner John Engels literally got into the weeds.

Noting his own costs for weed killer had nearly tripled, he quizzed Community Services Director Scott Morgan on whether there was enough budgeted to account for increased costs.

Economic Development Manager Lisa Granahan urged commissioners to consider $100,000 to update the county’s comprehensive trail plan, which dates back to 2003.

Granahan said she searched for grant money to fund updating the plan. She said that federal officials look at the plan when considering requests for funding and that updating the plan could make the county eligible for grants.

County commissioners are scheduled to continue budget meetings through Thursday, depending on the progress they make.

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