Renville County looking to increase wages for retention, recruitment

If a proposal to implement a 5% pay scale progression is approved for Renville County employees, the increase in wages would not apply to elected officials.

Renville County employees may be receiving a five percent payscale increase.
Renville County employees may be receiving a 5% wage increase if the board approves a proposal from the personnel committee.
Tom Cherveny / West Central Tribune file photo

OLIVIA — Renville County employees might be seeing an unexpected 5% increase in their pay beginning in May.

The Renville County Board of Commissioners will be deciding at their next meeting whether to approve a 5% pay scale progression for all county employees effective May 13. The wage increase would not apply to elected officials.

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The county’s personnel committee is recommending the proposed change to address employee retention and recruitment needs, according to information presented to the commissioners at their meeting Tuesday.

County Administrator Lisa Herges told the commissioners that the county recently faced an unprecedented situation when a highway maintenance position remained unfilled for six months due to challenges recruiting for the position.

“We have seen significant turnover in the last year and a half, as have many entities, but we know our pay scale needs some help,” Herges said. “We know many folks are hurting because of what is going on.”


Only 16% of the county’s employees — 33 people — are at the top of the pay scale in the grade for their position. Historically, it takes 22 years for an employee to reach the top of the pay scale, she told commissioners.

“It’s not a best practice model,” Herges said.

The county has 208 full- and part time employees who would receive an increase. The 5% wage increase would be within the existing pay scale, which specifies a minimum, mid-point and maximum for each grade.

Employees already at the maximum of the pay scale in their grade would see the 5% increase as an employer contribution this year to their Voluntary Employee Benefits Association account, which can be used for health care costs.

The increase will cost the county $381,000 this year. The proposal calls for using American Rescue Plan Act funds.

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Last year, the county provided employees with retention payments totaling $1,300. Commissioner Doug Erickson asked if a retention payment was considered for this year instead of an increase in the pay scale.

He and Commissioner David Hamre pointed out that the increase will have a compounding cost for the county in future years. The county is currently in the third and final year of contracts with five employee bargaining units, and will be negotiating the next contracts.

Commissioner Randy Kramer, a member of the personnel committee, said the compounding costs associated with the increase were considered. The county’s current payroll costs are roughly $13.5 million per year. In future years, the higher wage costs will be placed on taxpayers, he noted.


“It was a hard angst for me,” Kramer told his fellow commissioners. “I support this because it’s the right thing to do.”

He pointed to the importance of retaining a quality workforce and being competitive with wage scales in adjoining counties to the east and north.

Hamre said he would like to see financial projections and have more time to consider the proposal, but voiced overall support for it. Commissioners Greg Snow and John Robinson also indicated their support.

“It’s us taking care of our people,” said Snow, who is also a member of the personnel committee. He said the added cost might prove unpopular with voters, while also pointing out the $310,000 cost is roughly the cost of a new road grader.

“We’re talking 200 people's lives, to help ‘em buy eggs,” he said.

At discussion’s end, Kramer said he felt that employees deserve the increase, and again emphasized the importance of employee retention: “Number one, if we do not have employees, we don’t have much else,” he said.

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoors reporter for the West Central Tribune.
He has been a reporter with the West Central Tribune since 1993.

Cherveny can be reached via email at or by phone at 320-214-4335.
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