County considering $1.50 per hour employee raise
County employees could receive an extra $1.50 per hour next year.
Stark County Commissioners Thursday reviewed a preliminary budget for 2020 that includes a possible pay increase for all hourly county employees.
Each department submitted its budget, which included the $1.50 increase, and department heads took questions from commissioners.
Tom Henning, Stark County State's Attorney, challenged the flat increase, saying he preferred percentage increases, which have been done in the past.
"Quite frankly, there isn't anybody who works for me as an attorney who doesn't have to be more qualified education-wise than any other office in the county," he said. "To say you're going to increase my lawyers by ($1.50) an hour, and a truck driver by a ($1.50) an hour, those are different skills, but the marketing is different."
He added, "I know you're looking at this at being a one-size-fits-all, but one size doesn't fit all anywhere."
Commission Chair Ken Zander argued that state's attorney office salaries are higher than any truck driver receives.
A preliminary budget of $27.3 million was proposed for 2020, a decrease from the officially adopted 2019 budget of $29.4 million.
A reason for the decrease is that the Veterans Service Office and North Dakota State University Extension Office both have balanced budgets for 2020, County Auditor Kay Haag said.
A budget increase for elections was proposed, as training will start in November for new equipment ahead of the 2020 national election.
"I'm not sure what's going to happen with the new equipment coming in," Haag said. "We're keeping our old equipment until the school election is over and then they'll come and destroy that and bring in our new equipment."
The new election equipment is being paid for by the state. The county's current equipment is roughly 15 years old, Haag said.
A dispute was raised over $3,600 budgeted for county planner travel expenses. County Planner Steve Josephson attends training required yearly for accreditation.
The position is shared with City of Dickinson, with the city providing 50 percent of the cost, including benefits.
Commissioners agreed expenses should also be shared.
"If we're a shared position with the city, I believe the city should be picking up half," Zander said. "I don't have any issues with education, but his accreditation is a shared responsibility."
Dickinson Ambulance Service requested an additional $60,000 for a new ambulance.
The privately-owned for-profit service receives no funds from City of Dickinson.
Stark County regularly gives Belfield $5,000, Richardton $6,000 and Dickinson $10,000 for ambulance services.
In one year, DAS received 1,230 calls from the city and only 88 calls from the county.
Zander said he preferred contributing to non-profit rural volunteer services.
"If you're running a business and you know your equipment is getting outdated, don't you put that in your business plan as a budget item?" Zander said. "I can't believe they didn't generate revenue off 88 calls to the county."
Commissioner Carla Arthaud supported providing DAS with funds.
"I don't want a volunteer paramedic coming to get one of my family members," Arthaud said. "Volunteers are good, but I'd like my paramedic on the ambulance to be up on training."
Sheriff Corey Lee requested an increase from $2,000 for school programs to $10,000.
"The (student resource officers) go into the schools and teach a class. They obviously need learning materials, packets," Lee said. "I don't want to do the D.A.R.E. program. I think there's some better ones out there."
The program would be implemented at any school that wants it, Lee noted.
Stark County Commissioners will take action on the proposed budget at their next meeting, on Aug. 6 at 8 a.m., at Stark County Courthouse, 51 Third St. E.