DougCo commissioners consider employee pay raises

Mike McKibbin
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

By Mike McKibbin/NewsBreak Denver

[DOUGLAS COUNTY, CO] More than 1,300 Douglas County employees could get mid-year pay raises in their June 30 paychecks if the county commissioners follow through on intentions discussed during a Monday work session.

Human Resources Director Laura Leary informally supported a mid-year market adjustment recommendation, but commissioners decided to wait a few weeks.

Leary recommended a 3% pay raise effective May 1 for end-of-June paychecks that would cost the county $2.5 million the rest of this year and $3.9 million next year. She said the money would come from one-time vacancy savings and revenue from new construction.

Leary told the commissioners the county is falling behind the market salary rate. The county budgeted for 3.5% increases at the start of this year, but the actual public sector increase in comparable counties was 4.1%.

Struggling to recruit talent

Meanwhile, the county has seen historically low numbers of job applications, just 2-3 for some positions, Leary added.

Historically high turnover of 4.3% in the first quarter of this year, an increased number of remote-only work requests from applicants and back and forth salary negotiations added to the county's situation.

"This should allow us to be more nimble and more measured with our recommendations next year," Leary stated.

Leary noted private sector employers such as Amazon, Burger King and Target have raised their wages and become more competitive as the county seeks to fill positions.

She said the county had "staffing crises" in many areas, with close to 90 vacancies, not including the sheriff's department.

Timing is a concern

Commissioner Abe Laydon said while he supports and appreciates county workers and the need to stay competitive, he wondered if the county should wait until after the June 28 Colorado primary election.

"I don't want to be accused of pulling some kind of stunt before the primary," he added. Laydon is up for reelection this year.

Commissioner George Teal agreed and noted the Federal Reserve is expected to raise interest rates again in May to help fight the nation's historically high inflation rate.

"So, I'm not sure we should pull the trigger right now," he said.

Commissioner Lora Thomas noted county officials "always say Douglas County is special and our employees go above and beyond" in supporting the recommendations. But she said state ballot initiatives that would cap property tax growth could hurt county governments.

Thomas said the raises would put an average of an extra $100 a month in employee paychecks.

"That would help pay for gas or food but it's not going to make anyone rich," she added. "But I worry what happens if we keep losing people and ask the ones still here to work more then we just end up losing more workers."

Leary said the commissioners could act on the recommendations by the end of May and still affect employees' June 30 paychecks.

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Mike McKibbin is an independent journalist on Colorado's Front Range and covers Douglas County for NewsBreak.

Denver, CO

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