Workshop for Dare commissioners looks at employee salary, benefit packages

Published 7:57 pm Saturday, April 30, 2022

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Dare County commissioners met in a five-hour budget workshop Monday, April 25, 2022 to review proposals from county manager Robert L. Outten.

The meeting started with the operating budget and progressed to capital improvements and the solid waste and water funds.

The final segment was the designated workplace improvement discussion.

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At the start of fiscal year 2022, Dare County posted 761 employees, the most of any employer in the county. At this point, however, some departments have several vacant positions. The county is losing employees to other government units or the private sector offering higher salaries.

Outten opened the session with information gathered from staff. The list of wants closely tracks the national trends. Salary issues are at the top of the list.

The county has already commissioned a salary study and it is presumed that the study will show the need to increase salaries in various jobs and grades. The proposed budget has a place saver of $500,000 to cover the study impact.

Outten’s proposed budget shows a 5% cost of living increase totaling $2.25 million.

Additionally, he is recommending a restoration of county contributions to employees’ 401Ks. The budget calls for a proposed 3% contribution, with no employee match required. The cost of this move is $1.05 million. The county’s contribution was cut in 2007 and never restored.

To address the problem of employees not moving through the salary levels within grade, Outten is proposing a step program. He has included a 2% step plan in the budget, totaling $698,593. The plan will be funded if the salary study calls for it.

Longevity remains the same. The merit program remains the same, with $557,554 allocated. Also considered was additional compensation for employees earning job-related certificates.

Dare’s commissioners addressed health insurance issues at a special meeting held April 1 and offered with employee enrollment starting April 4.

The county’s contribution to a health savings account increased from $750 to $1,500, which covers the employee deductible.

Co-payment in the preferred provider organization decreased to $50 for a specialist appointment and $25 for a primary care appointment.

Employees can now select from four tiers which are: employee only, employee/child, employee/spouse and employee/family. Employee premiums are fully covered by the county and 85% of a dependent premium is covered by the county.

Additional days off from work was another request from employees. Outten suggested three days annually of personal leave and dropping the current “school leave” day. The days will not accrue.

Next, Outten took up working remotely and a flex schedule. As explained by Outten, the flex schedule would set a standard work day from, for example, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Within that block of time, an employee would have the flexibility to put in the hours.

Outten said the county’s experience with working remotely was that productivity did not fall off.

He is not proposing 100% remote, but those that do will need a dedicated space and if in a health-related position, the employee will need a secure place to store records.

Some departments can’t accommodate flexible hours. The departments are Emergency Medical Services, Sheriff’s Office, Public Works and Parks and Recreation.

Outten is also suggesting funding department team-building and ongoing employee surveys.

On the employee wish list was a child care center for employee children.

At the very end of the workshop, the commissioners took up the meeting schedule. Beginning in July, 2022, the commissioners will meet once a month at 9 a.m. on the first Monday.