Thanks to a resolution from a joint meeting of the Oneida County labor relations and administration committees on Nov. 8, those who work for the political subdivision might end up taking home more money in 2018, if the county board allows it at this month's meeting.
Earlier in the year, the Wisconsin Department of Revenue calculated cost of living in the Badger State will be rising by 1.84 percent in 2018. In the proposed budget, general municipal employees have been granted a 1.50 percent increase in their wages.
This is the highest scheduled increase since 2015. The last time the increase matched or beat the expected cost-of-living increase was in 2016 when workers received a 1 percent increase in their pay in order to cover inflation of 0.67 percent in the state.
According to Oneida County finance director Darcy Smith, area leaders wish they could match raises with the cost-of-living number each year, but it is often a challenge.
"It's really hard to do," she said. "Under the guidelines pertaining to our levy limits, we can't increase too much. Sometimes you can and it's great, but it's really quite difficult."
In the 2018 budget proposal, more than $100,000 has been set aside in contingency to cover the increase for less than 300 employees. During the meeting, committee member Billy Fried voiced his concern over the delivery system for the funds, claiming later in a phone interview with The Times it can cause issues.
"I think a rate can be the right choice, but sometimes when it's a percentage the rich get richer," Fried said. "We have to make sure a person on a high end doesn't always get more than someone on a low end with cost-of-living increases, it has to be fair."
The increase was ultimately approved and sent on to the board. As labor relations committee chairman Ted Cushing put it, a percentage is better because it makes it more challenging for the county.
"When done this way, one thing which benefits Oneida County is we get our wages up to being more competitive," he said. "If it varies, there's more flexibility for new workers."
Evan J. Pretzer may be reached via email at email@example.com.