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County raises minimum wage for its workers to $20/hour

Wednesday, August 31, 2022 by Seth Smalley

The Travis County Commissioners Court voted unanimously to raise the minimum wage for county employees by $5 per hour, in addition to approving multiple other types of pay increases for county workers. The current county minimum wage is $15 per hour and commissioners approved an increase to $20 per hour, or $41,600 per year, more than a $10,000 yearly increase.

“That is an enormous change at the bottom of the pay scale and I would venture to say will help our recruitment and retention efforts substantially,” said Todd Osborn with the county’s compensation office.

About 154 county jobs – about 25 percent of classified jobs – will change pay grades under the proposal. Osborn said the move would cost about $4.2 million.

Additionally, employees on payroll prior to April 1 of this year will receive an across-the-board pay increase of 5 percent, costing $12.5 million. Osborn said the money for the pay raises will come from the General Fund.

The changes to minimum wage will have rippling effects on the pay scale, according to Osborn.

“It’s just an inevitable thing that, when you lift the bottom of the pay scale substantially, you are going to have to make some changes to the pay scale to implement it.” Osborn added that increasing the minimum wage by so much will also lead to wage compression, the term for when new hires can earn close to what longtime employees earn.

“You are going to have some compression at the lower end of the pay scale,” he said. “But that compression minimizes as you move up into the higher pay grades.”

Commissioner Brigid Shea said that the county needed to adjust the pay scale most at the lowest end, “because that’s where we’re having the hardest time filling jobs.”

“I think that even with the current labor shortage, this gives us a much better fighting chance to be able to recruit positions and get people in the door and let them see what Travis County has to offer,” Osborn said, referring to specific jobs that the county has had trouble filling in recent months, such as juvenile detention officers.

“We have an alarmingly high vacancy rate in our road maintenance division and that means we can’t maintain the roads as well as we would want to so it has a direct impact on the public,” Shea said. “For anyone who thinks we’re exercising too much largesse with our hiring: We can’t fill these jobs.”

“When I hear we’re losing people to Williamson County, to Waco – that is really unnerving,” Commissioner Jeffrey Travillion said.

Photo made available through a Creative Commons license.

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