Riley County commissioners approved a mid year salary adjustment for county employees on Monday.

The adjustment is a 1% pay scale increase for all active employees.  The 1% increase is for the mid year of 2021, but will also include 2020 and the first part of 2021 for a total of 2.52%.

The reason this was brought to the commission was due to the county freezing salaries for the 2021 budget last year in anticipation of economic challenges due to the pandemic. However, the impact was less than anticipated.

Budget and Finance Officer Tami Robison told the commission that since county employees were considered essential, they continued to work during the pandemic.  Not only did they have their normal tasks, but also added significant tasks due to the pandemic.

Robison says this increase is a way to show the county’s appreciation to its employees and will be funded with American Recovery Plan federal funds. The proposed mid year adjustment would equate to around $179,000 for employees starting Jul 1.

The commission also approved additional hazard pay to EMS Director David Adams and Health Department Director Julie Gibbs. This would be a one time $5,000 dollar payment, which will also be paid with federal funds.

Human Resources Manager Elizabeth Ward says they have worked with other counties who are doing the same thing for their pandemic response leaders.  This money equates to around 100 hours towards pandemic response, which Ward says both directors well exceeded.

Commission Chair John Ford was in favor of both requests, but felt uneasy using federal dollars.  The first issue he had was using Ad Valorem tax dollars to fund this increase starting next year.  He also prefers if the increase was more of a separate supplement payment.  Commissioner Greg McKinley was in also favor and worried about future funding.

Robison responding by saying if the county had funded the the 2021 and 2022 cost of living adjustment and step increases, that would have equated 8.72% compared to the 2.52%. County Clerk Rich Vargo says this decision originated from money left over by the health department for those workers that helped with pandemic response.

“There are just many employees outside the health department that went above and beyond during this pandemic,” says Vargo. “It just becomes too difficult to distinctly identify who contributed how much and who should deserve a, lack of a better term, ‘bonus’.”

Ford responded saying after every thing the county has gone through, they need to take care of its employees.  He still felt they should not use federal dollars for the pay scale increase, but still approved both requests.

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