Otter Tail County entry level salaries 'not competitive,' review finds; board mulls increases

The recommended pay raises would affect 2/3 of the county's employees, and are already a part of the county's 2022 budget. At their last meeting Nov. 9, county commissioners asked the Finance Committee to give the proposed raises further review.

OTC Courthouse.jpg
Otter Tail County Courthouse (Perham Focus File Photo)

A private company hired to review the salaries of Otter Tail County employees found that while the county offers competitive salaries at the higher levels of seniority and responsibility, its entry level salaries are not competitive.

The company came to its conclusion after reviewing salaries offered in 22 surrounding counties and cities.

The company recommended adjusting all salaries, not just the lower levels, and at a county board meeting on Nov. 9, commissioners wondered aloud why they would raise the upper range if it's already competitive.

"That, to me, says we'll be overpaying them when they get to Step 12 in five years," said Commissioner Wayne Johnson, who represents the northwestern part of the county, including Pelican Rapids.

Stephanie Retzlaff, the county's human services professional, said not increasing the higher salaries would leave too little room to adjust between steps. A county worker moves up one step in the pay scale each year, until they reach Step 12, and under the new system, someone making $45,395 their first year would earn $47,643 their second. Retzlaff did not provide the existing salary scale, and Johnson requested it before making a decision.


Retzlaff said it has been difficult to recruit workers to fill some categories, such as nurses and social workers, who she said would make more in the private sector even fresh out of school.

Chairman Lee Rogness, who represents the Fergus Falls area, voiced skepticism.

"I have trouble believing that we're low in comparison to the private marketplace because I haven't heard that once in recent history," he said.

Commissioners expressed surprise upon learning that the raises were already included in the county's 2022 budget. The changes affect 2/3 of the county's employees, and commissioners said they've heard employees are feeling anxiety and concern about the outcome of the proposed new pay scale.

Commissioners sent the proposal back to the Finance Committee for further review.

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