Sedgwick County employees to get pay raise

WICHITA, Kansas — Employees of Sedgwick County received some good news today, county commissioners have voted to give pay raises to nearly all county employees.

According to one commissioner, this is the first time in his tenure an across-the-board raise has been given to county employees. Usually it is a merit-based system out of a pool of funds but one commissioner is worried about the trend, wondering where the funds are going to come from in the coming years to be able to compensate for the increased wages.

By a 4-1 vote, nearly all of the county’s 2,500 county employees will be getting a pay raise.

“What we discovered is that they were being paid 6.7% below market and we’re losing a lot of good employees because of that,” said Bill Buchanan, county manager in Sedgwick County.

Buchanan says the raises are part of a two-phase plan that will cost close to $3 million, something he says was allotted for in the $414 million dollar budget passed last summer. The hope is to combat a turnover rate that was as high as 30% in some departments.

The one “No” vote came from commissioner Karl Peterjohn, who’s concerned the pay raises are not sustainable for future years and may lead to a cut in services.

“We can do certain things today and if we take this decision and go with it, it may preclude us from funding other county activities down the road,” said Peterjohn.

He’s also concerned that this across-the-board raise sends the wrong message because it comes after merit-based pay raises that averaged 2.5% were given out in January, meaning that some people will get two raises this year. Also he doesn’t see the revenue supporting that, especially now that certain fees have been cut by state lawmakers.

“If we increase spending faster than our revenue grows or if our revenue is removed from us, like if the mortgage registration fee goes away, that can lead us to fiscal problems,” said Peterjohn.

An idea of how the pay raises compare to other counties in the state, a deputy here will make $19.77 an hour once this plan is implemented. That is more than Wyandotte County, which makes $16.66 and hour and Finney County where they make $13.50 an hour.

For more information on wages and the proposed increase across the county, follow this link to the Compensation and Classification Document.

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