Council members question results, suggestions of salary study

The Bartholomew County Council is still wrestling with how to implement the results of a newly released study of county government workers salaries. Or even if to take the study into account.

The study, released to the council last week during a work session, was from Waggoner, Irwin & Scheele, a Muncie based company commissioned last spring by the county at a cost of $25,000. Kent Irwin with the company outlined the results of the study, which he said compared thousands of salaries in both the private and government sectors and took the salaries in the middle of the pay ranges to come up with the best models for Bartholomew County government employees.

The idea is to make sure county employees are being paid fairly and that their pay is on par with similar jobs in neighboring communities.

But implementing those recommendations immediately would be at a cost of more than $404,000 according to a tally from Auditor Pia O’Connor.

At this week’s council meeting, Councilman Bill Lentz said he was not prepared to implement the changes wholesale, especially when it could affect employees in the same office differently, with some getting raises, some seeing no change, and finding out that others are overpaid. Council President Greg Duke said that implementing the survey could not replace the discretion that taxpayers expect from their their council members on how their tax money is spent.

Councilman Jorge Morales pressed fellow council members to agree to a timeline when they would be comfortable with making a decision on the study, while Councilman Mark Gorbett urged the council to take the results in account in setting employee salaries. He said some are grossly underpaid for the work they do.

Councilman Matt Miller said that he had questions about how the suggestions for department chief deputes were set — those were made with suggestions on similarly sized counties, rather than just looking at neighboring communities.

The council agreed to ask county office holders to evaluate the study results and its effect on their departments.