2017 Personnel Services

Wage Study

In 2016, the HR office sent out a newsletter to employees highlighting the changes that came about from the wage study, being implemented in 2017.  A refresher newsletter was sent out in early 2017.  This page was created to report on what those changes entailed.  For those not interested in the history and just interested in what the actual wage scale is, feel free to skip this page and click HERE.  For those who remain... prepare to get educated!

On Wednesday, September 28th 2016, the Commission approved the 2017 budget and the 2017 wage scale, which was designed using the recommendations of the wage study (that is still ongoing).  Positions were classified using the Factor Evaluation System (FES) - a system designed by the federal government to grade their positions equitably.  Then those groups of similarly classified positions were compared to the market.  Positions were cross-walked and normalized between other county, city, and state government, which is a fancy way of saying comparable positions were attempted to be found.  Additionally, the wages study analyzed comparable positions within the private sector (solely within the state of South Dakota) to make sure Meade County was compensating competitively not only with other public agencies, but also with the state as a whole.

Several positions were adjusted because of what our surveys and the market data suggested.  The goal was to bring every position's average wage (middle of the grade) within 5% of the average median wage of counties.  The largest class of employees (law enforcement, corrections, dispatch and highway department) found the most significant increase from the wage study.  These positions saw an increase of more than 10% to bring them within the market goal.  It is important to note that the majority of the changes affected hourly employees, not salaried. The highest paid salaried employees were largely unaffected (no increases).

The increase in total personnel services from 2016 to 2017 was an additional cost to the county of $551,344.  This includes wages, taxes, insurance fees, and retirement.

Of the $551,344 increase to personnel services, insurance benefits (health, dental, and life) accounted for 49.9% of the total.

The wage adjustments, which include longevity, step increases, any cost of living adjustment, and the results of wage studies, represent a total increase of more than $1,368,000 over 5 years.

The $280,023 increase for 2017 is broken down as follows:

  • Hourly employees were increased $94,952
  • Salaried (non-elected) employees were increased $4,383
  • Elected officials saw an increase of $7,754


Here's a refresher on the implementation, also presented in the previous newsletters.  To implement the new wages, all employees will move from their current position on the wage scale to the next closest step on the new 2017 pay grade- with no one losing any pay.

A specific example would look like this:

We'll use an Equipment Operator in this example.  We'll pick a random name so it's easier to follow... let's say this employee is named "Donald T."  Now Don, as an equipment operator, is currently on grade 4 for 2016.  Let's say ol' Donnie had done "a tremendous job" for years with the county and was sitting at the top of the pay grade, which is a step 10.  Don's hourly wage at 4-10 would be $19.73.  For 2017, the wage study indicated that equipment operators should actually be on grade 5.  Mr. T gets moved to the next closest step on the new scale.  His $19.73/hour would become a grade 5 step 7, which pays $20.04/hour.  That increase is 1.57%, which would be applied on December 26th to start the fiscal year.  Donald would then be eligible for a step increase on his anniversary (November 8th), which would give him his 3% bump to $20.64/hour.  He would then continue on the new grade's scale until he again has hit maximum job worth and finds himself once again at the top of the scale.

In 2016, 52 employees were maxed out on the pay scale and had no opportunity for growth outside of the annual adjustment and any longevity they may accrue.  Implementing these changes has reduced that number to 28, meaning more employees will be entitled to step increases.

When conducting the wage study, we took into account other county's benefits packages as well, and found that Meade County still offers competitive benefits to its employees.

Let's go back to our example with Donald.  Don's a family man, you see?  He wants to make sure his family is covered under the insurance.  What does it cost him?  In 2017, with the approved increase, it would cost $437 per month. Compare that to someone working at another county.  We'll call this other employee "Vladimir P." from Scobey County.  Now in Scobey County, Vladimir's wages would actually be higher, but so are his healthcare costs.  As a quick comparison, let's say V-Punk was making $21.16/hour over at Scobey, but his portion of a family healthcare plan was $715 monthly.  After taxes and retirement his net earnings would be around $2,450.  Donnie, on the other hand, making $20.04/hour with a monthly healthcare cost of $437 would net around $2,560.  That dollar an hour difference doesn't amount to a lot when compared to the rising costs of healthcare.  Sure, they're best buds, but one's definitely getting a better deal...

Wage Scale

Here's a little information about the wage scale itself.  The 2017 wage scale was adopted by the Commission on September 28th, 2016.  It was adjusted to have a 5% difference between grades for hourly employees (from grade 1 to grade 10). Because of the proposed changes to federal overtime exemption laws, grades 9 and 10 were changed from salary, or exempt, positions to hourly, or non-exempt in case the proposed law is upheld.  There is a 10% difference between grade 10 and 11, a 15% difference between grade 11 and 12, and a 10% difference between grade 12 and 13.  There are still 10 steps within in each grade, with a 3% difference between steps.  The matrix can be found HERE.  Wage Study.