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Fri, Jan. 17

Raises for key employees prompt questions about Mohave County budget

KINGMAN - It wasn't the 2.5 percent raise for employees that had Mohave County Supervisors asking questions about the budget this week.

It was the reclassification and an increase in pay for the human resource director and procurement director that had the Board grilling County Administrator Mike Hendrix and County Finance Director John Timko.

District 5 Supervisor Steven Moss asked why the reclassifications and increases in pay weren't included in the draft budget that was submitted to the Board at the end of June.

Hendrix said the reclassifications were made at his request.

"It was my intent to bring all of the directors into the same pay range," he said. "It was important to me that the department directors all be at the same pay grade level."

Timko pointed out that the changes were included in a memo to the Board that was in Monday's meeting packet.

According to Timko, the reclassifications will give the human resource director a $5,000 annual increase in pay and the new procurement director a $15,000 annual increase in pay.

The library director's position would also be reclassified at the same pay range, but the new director would not be getting a pay raise, he said.

When the Board eliminated the deputy county manager positions, all of the county's

department heads took on more responsibility, Timko said. These were the only two directors who did not receive compensation for that increase in duties. He also pointed out that the new procurement director had been promoted to the position from within the department.

District 2 Supervisor Hildy Angius said the changes didn't make sense to her.

"I can understand the procurement director, but it all seems kind of arbitrary," said Angius. "I think we need to set some policies on this or we'll have directors' salaries that are all over the place. I also have a problem with them being added at the last minute."

Timko tried to explain that the county does have rules in place to govern reclassifications.

"We do have rules in place," Timko said. It was those rules that prompted the changes in the first place.

He and Hendrix waited until the final budget came before the Board to propose the classification changes because they were waiting to see if the county got the $550,000 in state lottery money owed to it and what the Board would do with those funds. If the county got the funds, then Timko and Hendrix theorized that there should be enough money to reclassify the three directors.

June's draft budget did not include the lottery funds because the Arizona Legislature tried to avoid giving Mohave County $550,000 in receipts from the state lottery fund this year, claiming that the county was now a metropolitan area and no longer eligible for the funds. Reps. Doris Goodale, Sonny Borrelli and Sen. Kelli Ward fought the classification and got the money returned to the county.

The issue with the state was not settled until a few days before the draft budget was presented to the Board. At that time, the Board decided to use $458,000 for outside counsel for defendants who could not afford their own attorneys and had a conflict of interest with the county's Public Defender's or Legal Defender's offices. It also used $92,000 to cover an increase in costs for the health care contract for the county jail.

Angius asked if the three directors would also get the 2.5 percent pay raise that the Board had approved for county employees.

"No. If you remember, when the Board approved the raise in June, you said that no one is to receive two raises," Timko said.

Angius also asked if the department was doing a classification/compensation study to determine if county employee salaries were competitive with other government entities.

Hendrix said his department was starting the process but it would be several months before the study would be completed.

"People should be paid for what they do. I think we should wait until the study comes out (to adjust any salaries)," said District 3 Supervisor Buster Johnson.

"I'm appalled that we're fighting over a 2.5 percent raise for employees," said District 4 Supervisor Joy Brotherton. "I think we should be fair. If the county administration thinks (his department directors) deserve a raise, are we going to usurp his authority?"

Moss pointed out that the Board already usurped some of the county administrator's authority when it redesigned the position in January.

"I don't want to overcompensate someone if we're going to be doing a reclassification study," Moss said.

He preferred giving county employees a lump sum 2.5 percent raise for one year only, then waiting until the reclassification study was finished to

determine if salaries needed to be adjusted. He also suggested tabling the discussion on the reclassifications of the procurement, library and human resources directors until the next Board meeting.

His effort failed.

"It looks like I'm not going to win that fight," he said.

"No, but I applaud your effort," said Board Chairman Gary Watson, which got a few laughs from the crowd.

Moss then made a second motion to approve the budget with a 2.5 percent raise for employees and table the reclassification requests. That motion passed by a 3-2 vote with Johnson and Brotherton voting against the motion.

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