Wages for local elected officials and non-represented county employees will rise in 2013.

On Dec. 18, Houston County commissioners voted to give 18 non-union employees step or discretionary adjustments (effective on the worker's anniversary date) along with cost of living (COLA) increases consummate to those union members have negotiated.

In addition, the board approved 4 percent pay raises for elected officials, noting that those employees have had their wages frozen since 2010.

Personnel director Tess Kruger reported that the non-represented employees would receive a 1 percent COLA on Jan. 1 and another 1 percent on April 1.

Step or "experience" raises are based on length of employment, with those who have reached the top level moving into the "discretionary" (not guaranteed) range. The total salary and benefits package for the 18 employees will go from $1,115,893 (2012) to $1,124,089 (2013).

Commissioner Teresa Walter noted that the wage and benefit package is already budgeted for 2013 and made a motion to accept the raises.

Commissioner Justin Zmyewski asked for a roll-call vote. Only Zmyewski and Chairman Jack Miller voted "nay."

Kruger told the board that elected officials would need a 4 percent raise to make up for yearly increases that they have missed since 2010, but brought documentation for both a 2 percent and 4 percent wage scale increase for comparison.

When asked if the raises should be across the board for all five, Kruger said that "arbitrary" salary decisions can be challenged.

"You should take a comprehensive approach," she advised, offering to do an analysis of the wage packages for the five elected officials for future consideration. For 2013, it's too late for that, she reminded commissioners.

Miller questioned the amount that the top-paying position is at, noting that the sheriff's wages are similar to those of Winona County, a more populous area.

Commissioner Tom Bjerke said, "These people have to be reelected for their position. If somebody is not doing a good job, they're not going to be here."

"This will only give them the 2 percent that they should have gotten last year and the 2 percent for this year. We're looking at a COLA increase... keeping them at par with the rest of the county."

Walter moved in favor of the 4 percent increase for 2013. Only Zmyewski voted against the measure.

For 2013, elected salary and benefit rates are: auditor at $74,993, treasurer at $59,748, county attorney at $102,766, recorder at $68,454 and sheriff at $103,590.

By consensus, Kruger was asked to begin the study of elected employee salaries.

By unanimous vote, county commissioner's salaries were once again frozen at 2007 rates ($18,687).

Other personnel news

On Kruger's recommendation, the board rescinded its Dec. 11 motion to close county offices on Dec. 24. Certain offices are required to transact business on that date including Human Services and the courts, she stated.

The board voted to hire Erin Cognac as a social worker specializing in children's mental health. The 1.0 FTE position replaces an employee who resigned.

Commissioners approved a vacation use and sick leave policy update for exempt non-union (salaried) employees.

Kruger said that the changes were needed to "assure exempt employee status is not at risk under FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act) as exempt employees should not be accounting for their time in the same manner as hourly wage earners."

Similar language already exists in the MAPE and AFSCME agreements, she added.