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Commissioners consider review of employee salary classification

MORRIS – The Stevens County Board of Commissioners wants to review the grading system used to set the range for employee salaries after three employees have asked to appeal a recent reclassification.

Since 2006, all positions in Stevens County have been sent to Public Employment HR Consulting (PEHRC) to be reviewed. The company reviews different job categories and responsibilities to determine the salary range for the positions, Human Resources Director Janet Raguse said.

In 2011 changes in staff and responsibility in the county auditor/treasurer’s office changed the duties for employees in the courthouse offices and prompted a regrading process. In total, five positions within offices at the courthouse were reviewed and graded. The board reviewed all of the new classifications at a meeting on Dec. 31.

At that time, Property Tax Specialist Deanna Heuer asked to appeal the grade for her position, which did not increase in the most recent review. On Tuesday, Peg Kruize and Jane Swenson, employees in the county recorder’s office asked to appeal the grades for their positions, which had only increased by one grade in the review.

“We do not feel that our office was represented fairly and that the importance of the work performed in this office was not recognized, nor the experience that our years of services brings to this position,” Kruize and Swenson wrote in their appeal.

Commissioner Phil Gausman said he wanted to hold a work session to discuss issues raised by the appeals, including whether a new study was needed and how to handle appeals to classifications going forward.

“I think it’s somewhat public knowledge that we’re not real thrilled with this grading system we’re using and we’ve discussed before some changes maybe we could make,” said Gausman. “

Raguse said the county personnel committee has discussed the grading process. Raguse said the system that weighs each of the systems is proprietary information for the company, which is not the case for all pay studies. Because the information is proprietary, it is difficult to know why positions are classified in a certain way.

On Tuesday the board voted to table a decision on the appeals but did not set a date for a work session.

Human Services has fewer cases with higher intensity

The Stevens County Human Services Department had “somewhat significantly” fewer cases, but those they did work on were more intense, Director Joanie Murphy told the board on Tuesday.

The department had fewer intakes – 492 in 2013 compared to 568 in 2012 – and dealt with fewer child protection assessments – 33 in 2013 versus 62 in 2012. However, the cases they did take on were more complicated than in the past.

“Those are the times when we become very well aware of how limited our resources are – we all feel that stress of not really being able to adequately serve people,” said Murphy.

One area that did increase in 2013 was child support cases, which jumped from 246 in 2012 to 267 in 2013. Going forward, Murphy anticipated having more income maintenance cases because more individuals are qualified for medical assistance (MA)under the Affordable Care Act.

“As time goes on, I think we’ll see more MA applications through the MNSure process,” Murphy said.

One of the biggest cost areas in Human Services was in the area of mental health, which amounted to just under $450,000.

Murphy said about half was related to out of home placements for children who are “seriously emotionally disturbed.”

“I’m happy to report that one of those children is home and there are discharge plans for two others – I’m expecting that 2014 is not going to look like that,” said Murphy.

Murphy said she also anticipates some grant money coming into the area to support in-school mental health services for students.

Other business

  • The board approved a n advance of $130,000 to County Ditch 30 to help with repayments and to cover engineering costs on an upcoming improvement project.

  • The board approved a contract with Big Stone County to continue to provide clinical supervision for their staff in the Human Services Department. Director Joanie Murphy also told the board that her office is in the process of hiring a new office support specialist.

  • The board approved an agreement with the AFSCME General Unit for 2013. The board also held a close session to discuss negotiation strategies with the AFSCME Highway Unit.

  • The board approved a resolution in support of maintaining the Renewable Fuel Standard. The Environmental Protection Agency is considering a proposal to reduce the RFS targets for ethanol. The resolution will be passed on to the EPA and as well as local representatives.

  • The board authorized Environmental Services Director Bill Kleindl to invite consultant Ben Oleson of Hometown Planning to their meeting on Feb. 18 to discuss developing a comprehensive zoning plan for the county. Oleson will discuss the process for developing a comprehensive plan with the board.