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Jackson County government implements pay increase, new minimum wage

Jackson County courthouse.jpeg
Posted at 6:15 PM, Feb 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-10 19:15:25-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jackson County is adopting the city’s “living wage” standard as part of a series of changes recommended by an independent Job Classification and Compensation Study.

The city of Kansas City, Missouri, passed an ordinance in October 2017 recommending living wage increases and promising to raise the minimum wage for municipal workers to $15 per hour by 2022.

Based on the study author Evergreen’s recommendations, Jackson County will follow suit — implementing a $12.50 minimum wage this year, which increases to $13.75 in 2021 and $15 in 2022.

But the bigger news perhaps is that nearly 900 county employees are in line for a raise during the next three years under a restructuring of the county's compensation schedule that will cost more than $8.77 million over the next three years.

The Jackson County Legislature “authorized the implementation” of study recommendations Monday, according to a release from County Executive Frank White Jr.’s office.

White trumpeted the news in a statement Monday evening:

“After being elected to the County Legislature, I quickly learned that the County was simply not taking care of its Associates in the manner they deserved. As County Executive, I have seen each of our departments struggling to fill vacancies in essential roles simply because we refused to acknowledge that we were not compensating our staff appropriately for the work they were doing. I would like to thank the members of my staff who worked diligently on this report, Evergreen Solutions LLC for their expertise and assistance, and most importantly, members of the County Legislature for their support.”

Evergreen is recommending an overhaul of the county’s pay structure from seven salary schedules to one that includes 29 separate pay grades with a range spread of 55% except for high-level managers, which would have a range spread of 70%.

The result will be an immediate pay raise on average of nearly 17%, or $5,485 for more than 500 staff members. That represents “almost half of the county’s current full-time workforce,” White’s office said.

The structural changes recommended by Evergreen are designed to help Jackson County avoid falling behind again relative to its peers with respect to employee compensation.

“This is something that has been extremely important to me since I took office five years ago,” Jackson County Legislative Chairman Theresa Cass Galvin, who represents the 6th District, said. “It was made even more special by working in collaboration with the County Executive’s team to achieve such a rewarding common goal. A special thanks goes out to Michelle Chrisman and Randy Reyes for their hard work in making this a reality for our Associates. I am confident that having a competitive compensation and classification system will encourage strong recruitment and retention in Jackson County.”

New County Administrator Troy Schulte also backed the plan at Monday's meeting.

“All of the hard work started before I arrived at the County, but I am excited to have been part of the team effort that will have a positive impact for years to come,” Schulte said.

Evergreen recommended reclassifying 84 positions with the Jackson County government.

Overall, according to the Evergreen report, implementation of the new salary structure will cost Jackson County $2,967,273 in 2020, $2,629,114 in 2021 and $3,174,399 in 2022.

The average salary increase for more than 800 county employees in 2021 will be just shy of 8%, or $3,222 per year, while the average increase for nearly 900 employees in 2022 will be a little more than 8%, or a $3,571 annual increase.

Evergreen noted that Jackson County “is commended for its generous benefits options,” but the county lags behind in health insurance options.

It also recommended annual cost-of-living adjustments tied to the local consumer price index.

Finally, Evergreen recommended revisiting a classification and compensation study every five years in addition to regular small-scale market analysis surveys to ensure the county remains competitive with its salary and benefits offerings.