A hired consultant is recommending no pay increases for Wood County Park District staff. Cindy Sreenah, senior consultant with Clemans, Nelson and Associates, gave the report Wednesday to an advisory committee studying wage issues for the park district.
The firm was hired last winter after the three-member park district board recommended huge salary increases — ranging up to 74 percent with the average salary increase being 32 percent — for its 20 employees.
But the 48-page report suggests minor increases for two employees and concludes that three are being paid the maximum in their range.
“I’m a little surprised that apparently it doesn’t call for any increases,” said George Thompson, park board president, after the meeting.“We’ve got the answers that we wanted, in comparing other park districts,” he said. “I’m very glad we went through this process so I can stand tall and say we’re doing the right thing for the taxpayers.”
The advisory committee postponed acting on the report until all members were present. Two of the five were absent. Their next meeting will be Aug. 26 at 4 p.m. in the commissioners’ meeting room.
Thompson, who acted as moderator, said he expects the advisory committee will adopt the recommendations. When it comes before the park board he said he would vote with the advisory committee’s recommendation.
Thompson, who has served on the park board for 21 years, said he expects some staff will leave if they are not better compensated.
“There are several employees I know we’ll probably lose,” he said.
Advisory committee member Andrew Kalmar, who is Wood County administrator and a former director of the park district, said he was not surprised at the report’s conclusions. He thought the park staff members earned fair and reasonable wages compared to others in the area.
“It seems well researched,” Kalmar said of the report. “I didn’t think originally their wages were that far off.”
The board this year initially granted salary increases to Director Neil Munger (to $79,040 from $52,832), Assistant Director Jeff Baney (to $77,061 from $43,218) and Office Manager Kristin Long (to $68,525 from $42,382).
The Clemans, Nelson report recommends those three stay at that pay, along with the majority of the staff. A park ranger and stewardship specialist could be bumped up, from $12.14 an hour to $12.54 an hour and $11.48 and hour to $12.54 an hour, respectively.
Three staff members — two park rangers and a program naturalist — are “x-stepped,” meaning they are being paid above the maximums in their pay range, Sreenah said.
She said, for the study, 28 wage surveys were sent out and 13 responded. “Of those 13, only five are really comparable to Wood County,” she said.
Those park districts were Hancock County in Findlay, Johnny Appleseed Metropolitan in Lima, Miami County in New Carlisle, Sandusky County and Medina County. Their annual budgets range from $1.5 million to $3 million, Sreenah said. Wood County’s is $2.4 million this year.
When first reported by the Sentinel-Tribune in January, the raises were criticized by several Wood County officials, who said the pay hikes were irresponsible in tough economic times. County budget commission members suggested that they might reduce the amount of the park district’s levy because of the pay raises.
The salary increases were pushed back to 3 and 4 percent and the board hired Clemans, Nelson to study its pay scale. The firm, which is based in Dublin and has an office in Lima, was hired at a cost not to exceed $5,852.
The board said the initial staff raises were warranted because many are underpaid.