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Are we going anywhere?

Mon, May 29th, 2000
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Monday, May 29, 2000

During another long and winding discussion regarding the Bjorklund Compensation Study, Fillmore County Board Chairman Gary Peterson sighed last Tuesday and said, "Well, are we going anywhere? It seems like we are, but Im not so sure. It seems like we could spend the rest of our lives on this . . ."

Indeed, the commissioners have wrestled with the intricacies of the Bjorklund study since March 28, when it was first submitted to them. The report, which was several months in the making, evaluated non-union job classifications and conducted a market study to assess the competitiveness of the countys current pay rates. The study looked at 107 positions and 62 job classification titles.

The determination that the Bjorklund report made was that the wages of Fillmore County employees were approximately 21% below market rates. The study determined that in order to fully implement a new salary program that would be more competitive would cost the county $168,875 in the first year alone. Another aspect of the Bjorklund plan called for eighteen separate job classifications, each with six salary grade steps. The salary upgrade for each classification would be set at 95% of overall market average.

Each week through April and May the boards agenda has called for discussion of the Bjorklund plan. On May 9, Robert Bjorklund, himself, was called back in to answer some of the boards questions. He encouraged the board to accept his plan in total. "If changes are made to it, you have to be clear as to why, as there is a cascading effect," he told the board. The board decided to have Bjorklund continue to work with the county when it came to making decisions on future reclassifications and classifications of new non-union positions.

Last Tuesday the board considered recommendations regarding the Bjorklund report that a steering committee made up of several department heads had put together.

Number one on the list stated: The Committee recommends that the report be adopted. Among the seven items that the committee went on to recommend was that all non-union employees be brought to the minimum of their respective grades and that employees whose current wage falls between steps be brought to the next highest step within their respective grades.

"This system will work if we make it work," commissioner Duane Bakke stated.

"Yep," Peterson agreed, "but only if everybody plays by the same rules."

Steve Voigt, the countys new highway engineer was sitting in on the discussion and spoke up, "Im concerned about how we get employees to take on new duties and responsibilities if theyre not going to get compensated for them."

"Were probably not going to learn that until we send a batch of complaints through to get reevaluated," commissioner Boyum opined.

"The complaints weve had so far have been shot down by Bjorklund," Bakke said. "That was the idea of getting him involved in this process and keeping him involved. Over the past three or four months hes said that every complaint is unjustified."

The board continued to discuss what policies from the Bjorklund document they wished to adopt. Several seemed to stand out as priorities including: classification review procedure; new classifications and new hire compensation; promotions; leave of absence, and updating the salary schedules. The final decision seemed to be to have coordina-tor Karen Brown work on these items and get them put into a working format, apparently so the board can discuss them some more.

"Its kind of plodding," Peterson said, "but Id rather get it done right now than have all these things come up later."

The board as a group seemed to nod in silent agreement.

The Bjorklund discussion will continue at least into another month as the boards next meeting is not scheduled until June 6.

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