Health corps to see 3% hikes

Auglaize County Health Department employees can expect to see 3 percent pay increases in the new year.

“The cost of living gets more expensive each year,” county Health Commissioner Charlotte Parsons said. “We want our employees to be able to live substantially. They do good work and we want to be able to reward the work they do as much as the budget allows.

“We can never afford to pay them what they are worth,” she said.

Auglaize County Health Board members approved the pay increases for the department’s 27 employees following an executive session during Tuesday’s monthly meeting.

Health Department employees were given 2 percent pay increases  in 2012, in addition to some employees receiving additional compensation to get them at a higher level for where they should be in comparison with

similar positions across the state.

This year, with no statewide survey of health department salaries completed, Parsons said she hopes the 3 percent cost of living adjustments continue to get employees where they should be compared to others in their positions throughout Ohio.

“We want to get our rates up to statewide averages and keep it fair,” Parsons said.  “Last year’s increases got us part of the way there. We may still be on the lower end of the averages, but I hope we are getting there with the 3 percent this year.”

She said other health departments across the state seem to be giving between 1.5 and 3.5 percent pay increases this year.

With a couple retirements of employees who were not replaced in 2012, Parsons said they are actually saving money on payroll in 2013. The responsibilities of those unfilled positions are being divided among other employees, leaving the Health Department with two fewer people employed in 2013.

The biggest line item in the Health Department’s budget, employee salaries is expected to decrease by $60,000 in 2013, even with the pay increases. Employee salaries account for more than $1.27 million for the department each year.

Another reason it was important to Parsons to give employees pay increases in 2013 is the added insurance costs they will face.

Staying with the same carrier and renewing their plan, insurance costs are increasing 13 percent for the Health Department into the new year. Employees are responsible for paying 15 percent of their premiums.

Insurance costs are expected to go from approximately $152,000 a year now to $178,000 a year in 2013, although exact figures are not yet known as some employees are expected to be changing their policies, Parsons said.

“It’s an estimate,” Parsons said. “Permanent appropriations will be approved in January.”

While she didn’t have an estimate of what the Health Department’s total budget may be in 2013, Parsons said she expects it to be a little less than in 2012 with anticipated reductions in grants.

“We will budget for the worst and make adjustments,” Parsons said.

Health Board members also approved 11 holidays for employees in 2013. Most follow the federal calendar, with the exception of Christmas Eve, which employees have opted to take off rather than Veterans Day.

The Health Department’s 2013 budget is expected to be approved at the next meeting of the Health Board at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 15.