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Dickinson to consider city employee wage increases amid unrelenting inflation

Dunn County recently increased county employee pay by a healthy 9%, which is still below the 9.1% increase in costs of living brought on by inflation. Dickinson appears poised to increase pay at a smaller margin still, with working documents showing between 4 and 6% — elected officials note that no agreement has been finalized.

DECKER.jpg
Mayor Scott Decker
Dickinson Press file photo
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DICKINSON — U.S. inflation surged to a new four-decade high in June as rising prices for gas, food and rent shackled household budgets amid mounting political pressure for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates aggressively -- facts that economists say will only lead to further recession.

In North Dakota the impact has been felt as well.

The Dunn County Commission unanimously approved the performance merit plan, which will include an average increase of 2.5% on the pay scale, as well as a COLA increase of 6.5% — totaling a 9% increase, with both measures scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, 2023.

Perrie Schafer, North Dakota Republican Party chairman, said that depressed wages are leading to suffering.

“Joe Biden and the Democrats in Congress have created an economic nightmare for American families. From skyrocketing prices to depressed wages, we are suffering because of the far-left’s grip on the Democratic Party," Schafer said. "Make no mistake about it: voters will remember who is responsible for this recession come November.”

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During the regularly scheduled city commission meeting on Tuesday Dickinson leaders discussed police pensions, the Southwest CTE Academy and a zoning request.

In the midst of a consumer price index soaring by 9.1% over the past year, the biggest yearly increase since 1981, worker average wages accelerated in the spring in a sign highlighting that North Dakotans won’t likely feel any relief from rising prices anytime soon.

In preparing for a public discussion on increasing city employee wages for 2023, the City of Dickinson drafted working documents comparing its proposed wage increases, by percentage, with those of six other cities in the state.

City plans to improve pay, to meet the growing inflation and consumer price index, was touted by Commissioner Jason Fridrich as vital to the city's ability to attract and retain workers.

“I'd like to see an increase of as much as we can possibly fit into our budget, you know. To help. I mean, we're struggling finding employees to come to work with us now, competing with the private sector,” Commissioner Jason Fridrich said. “I think we're gonna have to maybe do better than, you know, what's even proposed. But it’s all open to discussion.”

An avid proponent of quality of life, Mayor Scott Decker said he concurred with Fridrich on potential economic compatible increases, but noted that no decision has been made.

“We haven’t decided anything yet, as a commission,” Decker said. "We're just looking at all options to take care of our city employees within the constraints that we have while being responsible with taxpayer dollars.”

Although Fridrich and Decker emphasized that no decision has been formally reached, city working documents suggest that the commissioners are working with proposals that are leaning heavily in the direction of adopting a minimum of 2% merit based increases and an across-the-board 4% for COLA (cost of living adjustment), for a total of 6%.

2023 Wage Compensation Graphs by inforumdocs on Scribd

West Fargo recently increased, or proposed to increase, their pay by 8%; Jamestown by 6.5%; Dickinson is considering 6%; while Bismarck and Williston hovered slightly above 5%.

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Although Dickinson lands near the top of that pack, inflation at 9.1% would mean that a 6% wage increase would actually translate to a 3.1% decrease in real wages and purchasing power in the current marketplace.

Deputy City Administrator Linda Carlson broke down what percentage based increases would mean for the city budget, noting that the city has approximately 204 employees and that every one percentage point increase in city employee pay equates to $140,000 in annual costs.

Fridrich noted that discussions related to the ongoing considerations will begin at 2 p.m. Tuesday, during a commission meeting at City Hall.

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Jason O’Day is a University of Iowa graduate, with Bachelor’s Degrees in Journalism and Political Science. Before moving to Dickinson in September of 2021, he was a general news reporter at the Creston News Advertiser in rural southwest Iowa. He was born and raised in Davenport, Iowa. With a passion for the outdoors and his Catholic faith, he’s loving life on the Western Edge.
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