Dare County Commissioners met in a five-hour budget workshop on Monday, April 25, 2022 to consider proposals from County Executive Robert L. Outten.
The meeting started with the operating budget and progressed to capital improvements and solid waste and water funds.
The final segment was the discussion on improving the designated workplace.
At the start of fiscal 2022, Dare County had 761 employees, the most of any employer in the county. At this point, however, some departments have multiple vacancies. The county is losing employees to other government units or the private sector offering higher salaries.
Outten opened the session with information gathered from the staff. The list of needs closely follows national trends. Salary issues are at the top of the list.
The county has already commissioned a salary study and it is presumed that the study will show the need for salary increases in various jobs and ranks. The proposed budget has a reserve of $500,000 to cover the impact of the study.
Outten’s proposed budget shows a 5% increase in the cost of living for a total of $2.25 million.
Additionally, he recommends a restoration of county contributions to employee 401Ks. The budget provides for a proposed contribution of 3%, with no employee equivalency required. The cost of this move is $1.05 million. The county contribution was cut in 2007 and has never been restored.
To solve the problem of employees not progressing through salary levels within the rank, Outten offers a step-by-step program. He included a 2% step plan in the budget, totaling $698,593. The plan will be funded if the salary study requires it.
Longevity remains the same. The merit program remains the same, with $557,554 allocated. Additional compensation for employees who obtain job-related certificates has also been considered.
Dare commissioners discussed health insurance issues at a special meeting held on April 1 and offered with employee registration beginning April 4.
The county’s contribution to a health savings account was increased from $750 to $1,500, which covers the employee’s deductible.
The co-pay in the preferred provider organization has decreased to $50 for a specialist appointment and $25 for a primary care appointment.
Employees can now choose from four levels: employee only, employee/child, employee/spouse, and employee/family. Employee premiums are fully covered by the county and 85% of a dependent premium is covered by the county.
Additional days off was another request from employees. Outten suggested three days of personal leave per year and dropping the current day of “school break”. Days will not accumulate.
Then Outten started working remotely and following a flexible schedule. As Outten explained, flextime would set a standard workday, say, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Within this block of time, an employee would have the ability to put in the hours.
Outten said the county’s experience with working remotely was that productivity hasn’t declined.
It doesn’t offer 100% remote, but those who do will need a dedicated space and if they are in a health-related position, the employee will need a secure place to store their records.
Some departments cannot accept flexible hours. The departments are Emergency Medical Services, Sheriff’s Office, Public Works, and Parks and Recreation.
Outten also suggests funding team building within the department and ongoing employee surveys.
On the employees’ wish list was a day care center for employees’ children.
At the very end of the workshop, the curators resumed the program of meetings. Starting in July 2022, the commissioners will meet once a month at 9 a.m. on the first Monday.
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