MONTROSE – On average, Montrose County pays its employees less than its public and private equivalents, especially in the area of law enforcement, according to a recent study.
Residents gathered in Friendship Hall on April 24 to hear The Walters Consulting Group of Dallas discuss its findings on the county's classifications and compensation systems.
The evaluation of the county's system started last May with a goal of restructuring the system so the county could be more competitive in employee recruitment and retention, said officials.
According to the findings, the county could improve its compensation.
Looking at exempt, nonexempt and executive positions within the county's departments, the average employee was paid between 6.4 and 7.7 percent less than employees of other companies in a comparable position and with comparable duties.
And in public safety, particularly the sheriff's department (sound data could not be compiled for firefighters), officials were paid about 12 percent less on average than their incumbents.
The results, however, did not come as a surprise to some.
The county has a turnover rate of 13 percent – if it factors in layoffs last year, that jumps to 16 percent, said Stephanie Barnett, Montrose County internal services director. These figures contributed to the county's concerns and its decision to pursue the study, as a comprehensive compensation evaluation had not been done before, she said.
Most of the turnover came from health and human services and the sheriff's department.
Sheriff Rick Dunlap said he lost three employees to mining positions and other officers left to work in Mesa County where they could get paid about $4 more than in Montrose County.
High turnover – which results in less staff and more officers doubling up for experience and training purposes – means a drop in the department's efficiency rate, as well as its response time to emergency calls, he said.
And that also concerns the county, Barnett said.
She said the county's goal is to create a "total compensation package" that includes benefits and training. It is part of the county's strategic plan, which outlines goals to have an effective and responsible government.
"We are aligning ourselves both internally and externally with that goal," Barnett said.
The next step will be for the county to develop policy that will take into consideration the county's compensation philosophy adopted in April, as well as the study, Barnett said.
In doing so, the county will focus not only on implementation, but also in maintaining such policy, and the undertaking will be part of the total context of the budget because it's a large expenditure, she said.
That budget process starts in July.
During the meeting, The Walters Consulting Group detailed how it came to its findings. Those details are outlined in a presentation that the public can view on the county's website, www.co.montrose.co.us.