MADISON — Budget talks will resume later this month for the Madison County Board of Commissioners, but the pieces of the puzzle began to fall into place on Tuesday.
Meeting in the morning, the council proposed a 6.5% wage increase for county employees and approved Sheriff Todd Volk’s request to add more deputies and corrections officers.
Board Chairman Troy Uhlir opened the discussion on wages, noting that past discussions had focused on raising employees to at least $15 an hour, and setting a salary base for each office and on annual adjustments from there. This work continues with Zelle HR, a human resources consulting firm.
The commissioners noted that because the county had to raise salaries to hire employees, in some cases the starting salary for new hires was almost equal to that of current employees. Therefore the objective is to set a base rate for each office as a starting point.
Recently, the board voted to remove the reduction in the employee health insurance deductible from $2,600 to $1,500. But since not all employees have even reached a deductible of $1,500, this practice has only benefited about 20% of employees over the past year.
Commissioner Ron Schmidt said eliminating the deductible reduction would save the county about $100,000, which would allow the board to consider wage increases to benefit all employees.
The board agreed that a salary increase of 6% to 6.5% could be possible this year.
Uhlir said he would start meeting with elected officials to go over their budgets. When this is complete, the board will know if the proposed pay raise will work.
“When the numbers come back and if the total is really crazy and affects the budget, we might have to revisit that,” Uhlir said.
Veterans Services agent Gregg Hanson asked for more specific salary advice before starting his budget. Uhlir said elected officials could use a 6.5% pay rise to calculate their budgets.
Schmidt suggested that departments that have employees working for less than $15 an hour use a 6.5% raise to budget, but also a budget that raises wages by less than $15 an hour. to $15 and adds the 6.5% increase.
These budgets would be preliminary and subject to final board approval at the time of budgeting.
Commissioner Eric Stinson said salaries are an important part of what the county can offer its employees and must be competitive.
Uhlir added, “We’re trying to stay competitive in the employee market and remember that it’s taxpayers’ money we’re using to fund it.”
Volk met with the board to request the hiring of two additional patrol assistants, two additional prison officers, and a salaried administrative position.
He said Madison County had five fewer patrollers than other counties in the state with a similar population. Madison County has 16 patrol deputies, or one for every 2,048 residents. For example, Buffalo County has one deputy for every 1,767 residents.
Volk noted that Madison County operates four courtrooms and his department must provide officers for each for security.
“Some days we run out of time,” he said, adding that his department was two officers short of being fully staffed.
The sheriff said his officers continue to assist other communities in the county as needed, including the city of Norfolk.
Even though the board has authorized Volk to hire up to five additional employees, finding them won’t be easy.
Volk said his department attends career days at area colleges to talk about law enforcement jobs with students, adding that one day hopefully things will get back to where more people are. students think a career in law enforcement is something to pursue.
Also on Tuesday, commissioners changed their minds about how to handle National Opioid Litigation Settlement funds.
In December, commissioners voted to accept the funds for possible use in helping those recovering and for drug education. After learning that the settlement would mean $154,000 for Madison County paid over 18 years, the board agreed to have the funds go to the Nebraska Opioid Recovery Fund.
Uhlir said it’s probably best for the funds to bolster the state fund. Some of that money goes to Region IV of Madison County and other rehabilitation centers.
Sheriff Volk noted that the state fund also provides Narcan to the county. Narcan is a drug designed to quickly reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.
The Madison County Board of Commissioners met on Tuesday.
Members present: President Troy Uhlir, Ron Schmidt and Eric Stinson.
Others Present: Carlotta Weidner, Deputy County Clerk; Dick Johnson, superintendent of roads; Todd Volk, Sheriff; six other county employees and two journalists. No member of the public was present.
The meeting lasted 40 minutes, not including an afternoon session when the county council met as an equalization board to consider property assessment protests.
— Recited the oath of allegiance and observed a moment of silence. Noted that the law on public meetings is posted and followed.
— Met as Equalization Committee in afternoon to consider property assessment protests.
– Approved a revised interlocal agreement with the Nebraska State Administrative Office of Probation to facilitate the operation of the Northeast Nebraska Adult Drug Court for a term of July 1 through June 30, 2025.
— Approved a change order for project C-84-394 Stanton County resulting in a net increase of $36,010.
— Authorized the cancellation of two checks, one payable to Big Red Printing, Norfolk, and payable to the Sheriff of Stanton County.
— Examination of written reports and processing of complaints.