February 25, 2012

Addressing county’s turnover issue

Cass County has become a training ground for correctional officers.

Beginning officers take a job with the sheriff’s department or community corrections, and when they learn the ropes, they jump to a higher paying job in another county.

That’s not hard to do.

Cass County ranked 72nd out of 74 counties participating in a 2011 salary survey conducted by the Indiana Sheriff’s Association.

A starting correctional officer makes $22,182 a year in Cass County — well below all of the neighboring counties. The next lowest, White County, pays more than $3,500 more. The highest paid, Miami County, is at $30,874, nearly $8,700 higher.

The county’s status isn’t all bad. A department with a track record of providing well-trained officers to other departments can develop a reputation as a great place to launch a career.

Too much turnover, though, can be counterproductive. The constant training required to keep up with the change in personnel can be a drain on efficiency and a drag on morale.

Cass/Pulaski Community Corrections has three openings among its eight full-time positions, and Dave Wegner, the department’s director, is looking for solutions. He appeared before the county commissioners last week to suggest taking one of his eight full-time openings and turning it into two or more part-time openings.

By hiring part-time workers, he said, the county could save the cost of fringe benefits such as health insurance, and that could possibly add to the amount of money the department has available to put toward wages.

The catch is Wegner doesn’t want to lock himself in. He wants to give the idea a try, but if it doesn’t work, he wants the chance to go back to a full-time position. Wegner will make his case next month at a meeting of the County Council.

We hope the council will show some flexibility. In an era of declining revenues, the pot of money is not likely to expand, so officials need to take a look at ways to stretch the available dollars.

Offering part-time work to individuals looking  to supplement their incomes is one possibility. Shifting dollars between positions might be another.

Such experimenting is really the only way the county will find a solution to this problem.

This is a chance for county officials to think outside the box.

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