May 25—Most Flathead County employees will get a 4% raise while deputy county attorneys will see a total increase of 9% after county commissioners voted Tuesday to approve the wage bumps.
The commissioners unanimously supported the pay hike, approving several resolutions that increase pay for elected officials, along with union and non-union employees within the county. The cost of living pay increase is effective July 1. The increase for the deputy attorneys includes the cost of living increase along with a market increase of 5%.
According to state law, the county has to increase the salaries of elected officials by the same percentage when raises are given to county employees. For example, the sheriff’s salary sets the subsequent pay for the sheriff’s deputies.
The larger increase in pay for the County Attorney’s Office was cited as a means of recruiting and retaining attorneys. In addition to the elected County Attorney position, the department includes 12 attorneys and, until recently when one spot was filled, had three vacancies.
Commissioner Pam Holmquist said the County Attorney’s Office has faced employee retention issues.
“There was a lot of thought put into this,” Holmquist said. “These are the things the county has to do to keep and have good employees.”
Commissioners also approved an expansion of the office by adding two new deputy county attorney positions.
Commissioner Brad Abell said the new positions were critical, pointing out that a new judge joined the Flathead County District Court at the beginning of the year.
“This is needed for what is happening in the county,” he said.
County Attorney Travis Ahner thanked commissioners for the pay increase for his employees.
“This is taking the right step in terms of public safety,” he said. “We’re not outpacing anyone else with this. I believe it’s still fiscally conservative and responsible but it’s truly necessary.”
The sheriff’s salary will be $110,699; the two justices of the peace increase to $97,381; the county commissioners, clerk of district court, county treasurer, county clerk and superintendent of schools all increase to $84,514.
An 8% increase was approved for the County Attorney, bringing the salary for the position to $136,393.
Features Editor Heidi Desch may be reached at 758-4421 or [email protected].