County Attorney and Library System Director seeking raises for their employees

(Fremont County Library System Director Matt Nojonen, left, and facilities manager Tom Norwood discussed the system’s budget with the Fremont County Commission on Monday. Joshua Scheer photo.)

(Lander, Wyo.) – Fremont County and Prosecuting Attorney Michael Bennett submitted his first budget as a public official to the Fremont County Commission, which includes pay increases for his office. However, he wasn’t the only department to ask for raises during Monday’s budget hearings.

Bennett’s request represents a 2.2 percent increase over the previous year’s $1.395 million. He’s requesting $1.426 million for Fiscal Year 2014.

“Crime continues to go up,” Bennett said. While he’s still awaiting official numbers from the state, he said it’s looking like there was a 30 % increase this last year.

Bennett said in his budget he re-appropriated some salary funds that were left over after the departure of an attorney earlier this year. He said he also wants to be able to keep his attorneys competitive with similar positions in the state. He said the changes he’s proposed is to so he is “paying an honest salary for an honest day’s work.”

He said by making these adjustments he wouldn’t plan on tweaking salaries for at least the next two years other than for cost of living.

Bennett noted that he is unable to compete, salary-wise, with attorney salaries in the private sector. He said he expects some turnover in the lower level attorneys who would likely leave once they’ve gained enough experience to be hired elsewhere.

Commission Vice Chairman Travis Becker asked if Bennett had seen mid-year adjustments made by former Fremont County Attorney Brian Varn compared to how the last year began. “I’m concerned some of these might be adjusted a lot more thank you might think,” he said.

Bennett said he knew some salaries were changed, but he said he did not know Varn’s rationale for what he did. At the commission’s urging, he said he would investigate individual salaries at the start of last year and provide the breakdown for the commission.

Ultimately, the salary total for his deputies, if later approved by the commission, is decreasing about about $19,000 due to staffing changes to total $480,800. Clerk salaries will increase about $6,000 to total $285,424.

The Fremont County Library System’s administration also asked the commission for raise increases.

“Our staff has fallen further and further behind with regard to inflation rates,” outgoing Library System Director Matt Nojonen said.

Across the board, Nojonen requested a 2.5 percent increase to the system’s employee salaries. This would result in a $72,235 increase to salaries, totaling $1.115 million. Included in those numbers is a larger adjustment for the facilities manager and technology manager. Nojonen said both are being paid less than their equals elsewhere  He’s also requesting a second custodian for the Lander library and increasing work time for certain Dubois employees.

The commissioners grilled both Bennett and Nojonen on other parts of their budgets as well. Bennett addressed concerns with regard to his office’s move toward paperless, and Nojonen discussed the need for a $12,000 feasibility study for significant building repairs at the Riverton library to address water issues. Nojonen also wants to increase the system’s collections budget by 16 percent.

The library system’s total budget is $2.85 million compared to last year’s received $2.66 million.