SWEETWATER COUNTY – After stressing employee layoffs would be the last thing the county would do as they prepare for a budget crunch, the Sweetwater County Commissioners took it one step further at their Tuesday morning meeting.
The commissioners approved a pay incentive for county employees to help during the holiday season by a 4-0 vote. Commissioner Reid West was absent from the meeting.
Head of County Human Resources Gary McLean explained that during the 2015-2016 budget session, the commission set aside money for a one-time employee incentive of $1,500. Historically, this incentive has been paid out to employees during the November payroll so it would be available to employees prior to Christmas.
The original estimated cost and what was budgeted for the incentive was $424,186. However, due to vacant positions since that time, McLean explained this amount has dropped to $401,937.
To receive this incentive, employees have to meet certain requirements. In all, McLean said approximately 245 full-time employees, a handful of part-time employees and several specific positions, such as grant positions, would be eligible to receive the incentive.
The program only applies to county personnel and, as such, the component units such as the health board and other agencies are not included. Additionally, the chief deputies are also excluded. Elected officials are also exempted due to limitations placed by state statute on their compensation.
Those eligible include employees in the elected official offices including the assessor’s office, attorney’s office, clerk’s office, district court offices, coroner’s office, sheriff’s department,, detention center, animal control, emergency management and treasurer’s office.
Department employees eligible include custodial, DUI Supervised Program, engineering, facilities, fire department, information technology, grants department, human resources, juvenile probation, land use department, purchasing, road and bridge, vehicle maintenance and veteran’s service office.
Commission Chairman Wally Johnson has always been critical of cost of living adjustments. He said providing bonuses like this is completely under the commissioner’s control, unlike cost of living adjustment. As he said at the last commission meeting, Johnson stressed that laying off employees is the last option.
“While companies feeling the same effects have laid off employees, we have not,” Johnson said. “Our employees have been loyal and do a great job. The time is right to do this.”
Commissioner Randal Wendling spoke in favor of the incentive, saying this is a good thing to do to help the employees during the holidays. Commissioner Don Van Matre said the employees are the top asset of the county and was supportive of the increase.
Commissioner John Kolb explained he looks at things very carefully and tries to do what he thinks is reasonable. He said the incentive is the appropriate and the right thing to do.
While the average county in Wyoming is laying off employees as they prepare for the crunch, Kolb said Sweetwater County is not. He said because the commissioners had the foresight to see the upcoming budget problems, they prepared and have the ability to do this now.