Commissioner says: Bonuses reflect changed labor market

Larry Limpf

To help retain workers, the Ottawa County commissioners have approved a one-time bonus of $1,000 for employees in 2022.
The cost of the bonuses will be absorbed by a surplus in the county general fund from 2021 to 2022.
Mark Stahl, a county commissioner, said the bonuses reflect a changing workforce pool and job market.
“We’re no different from anybody else. We’ve had some job openings and received less than a handful of resumes applying for the job,” he said.
Rhonda Slauterbeck, county administrator, said a tight labor market in the private sector is impacting public sector employment.
“It’s certainly a different environment out there,” she said. “If you can go to McDonald’s and make $15 an hour. We do have individuals working here who are making less than $15 an hour. And PERS (Public Employees Retirement System) has changed some of its stipulations for health insurance. It used to be you had your retirement and you were guaranteed a health insurance plan. Now they’re giving a stipend and you’re having to go out on the exchange or wherever and get your own health insurance. So it’s not attractive as it used to be.”

Ottawa County appropriations
In addition, Ottawa County employees who aren’t unionized will also receive cost-of-living pay raises of 3.5 percent or 75 cents per hour, whichever is greater. The increases went into effect with the pay period starting Jan. 2.
The commissioners approved the raises and bonuses along with the county’s 2022 appropriations. The general fund was set at $19.2 million.
Total appropriations were set at $108 million and include operating expenses, capital/construction project payments and debt retirement.
Stahl and Slauterbeck said county departments have been reasonable in their budget requests and the appropriation process went smoothly.
The Wood County commissioners also recently approved bonuses for employees when the commissioners approved appropriations for 2022.
In a letter to department heads and elected officials in Wood County, the commissioners acknowledged the job market has changed.
“In the past year it has become increasingly difficult to attract people to fill vacant county jobs,” the commissioners wrote. “In order to address this and take steps to keep existing staff we agreed to provide a wage increase of 4 percent to employees in all commissioners’ departments as well as those in the prosecutor’s, recorder’s, court secretary, and public defender’s offices for 2022. An increase to reflect this percentage will also be made to the salary items, not including grants, for all remaining elected officials and general fund departments (including the board of elections) to be distributed as they see fit to staff currently on their personnel services schedule.”
To address wage pressures the commissioners also approved lump-sum payments for employees in 2022:
-Regular, full-time employees currently being paid $46,000 or less will receive a payment of $2,000
-Regular, full-time employees currently being paid $46,000 up to $62,000 will receive a payment of $1,000
-Regular, full-time employees currently being paid $62,000 up to $72,000 will receive a payment of $500


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