Gilpin County News

Roger Baker, Gilpin County Manager.   The adoption of the budget and certification of mill levies that took place at Tuesday’s meeting of the Gilpin County Commissioners was rather anticlimactic, as it always is.

It’s just the final, formal ratifying of a document that came from a lengthy and often painful process.

Budget hearings are never fun, but absolutely necessary; the County never has enough money to do everything that needs to be done.

So it falls to the Commissioners to prioritize those needs, and the budget reflects their priorities.

And with a little extra money available—gaming revenues have almost recovered to pre-recession levels—the Commissioners decided to address one of their highest priorities, employee salaries.

As followers of County business know, several times over the past year the Commissioners have been forced to adjust the salaries for a number of positions—dispatcher, equipment operator, vehicle mechanic—just because we haven’t been able to attract any good applicants when those positions became vacant.

That suggests—though doesn’t necessarily prove—that wages for other County positions are falling behind market conditions, and that other offices and departments could find themselves in similar straits soon.

To begin with, then, at the December 22 meeting the Commissioners authorized a 75¢ market adjustment for almost all County employees.

That may not sound like much, but for a newly hired Deputy Clerk or Office Assistant, coming in at the bottom of the pay range for those positions, that increase represents a 5.2% jump.

For a new employee in Grade 100, which includes some supervisory personnel in various departments, and most of the Sheriff’s deputies, it would be just under a 3% boost. That will make those positions a little more desirable, but it’s hardly enough of a change to have potential applicants knocking down the doors any time we advertise an opening.

The budget also includes funding for a later merit-based increase, to be instituted in the summer. The amount of this increase should allow Department Directors and Elected Officials to recognize employees who are doing stellar work—and perhaps challenge those who aren’t.

Even more, though this will be tied to the employees’ evaluations, it will be structured in a way that will allow those Department Directors and Elected Officials some flexibility in making internal adjustments to employees’ salaries which they feel are below what the market would pay—without having to wait for the positions to come open.

Weighing these two uses of the same money—rewarding employee excellence, and adjusting salary ranges—will prove exceptionally challenging for all our managers.

Because there will only be a limited amount of money allocated to each Department or Office, the supervisors—especially in smaller Departments and Offices—will have to realize that for every raise they give to one outstanding performer, it leaves much less money to fine-tune the salaries for individual positions.

And for those larger departments—Public Works, Parks & Recreation, the Sheriff’s Office—the amount of work that will be required to get all the dollars to work out as intended will be considerable.

Additionally, all this means more calculations for the Human Resources and Finance Department staff, who will have to both come up with the original numbers and insure that the money is allocated appropriately.

Still, making sure that the people who deliver County services are fairly compensated for their efforts is of the utmost importance; without them, the County government can do nothing.

Clearly the process is worth pursuing, even though there are lots of questions yet to be answered, and a lot of work yet to be done.

Nobody ever said this was going to be easy…