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NWC hopes to raise employee pay next year

Trustees pass resolutions to make compensation a priority

After lengthy discussions on the subject, the Northwest College Board of Trustees approved a pair of resolutions that make employee raises a priority for the coming fiscal year.

“We need to see what we can do creatively to make more money available,” said board president Nada Larsen. “We need to do the very best we can, and this is a priority. We want to see every person on this campus get some kind of raise.”

The resolutions, discussed at length at Monday’s monthly board meeting, were the result of multiple meetings of the college’s finance and policy committees.

“The board is concerned about compensation. They’re concerned about losing good people, they’re concerned about being able to recruit,” said NWC President Stefani Hicswa. “As a college, we have to be proactive and we have to pay attention to the market. But we also have to pay attention to the fact that by employees not getting cost of living adjustments, they’re falling behind.”

The last significant pay increase at NWC was a 3 percent raise in 2012.

The board’s first resolution deals specifically with making employee compensation a priority heading into the Fiscal Year 2019 budget, which will run from July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019; the second relates to compensation for the NWC president, saying the president’s compensation and benefits “should be no less than the amount of the median salary and benefit package of all community college presidents within the state of Wyoming.”

Both resolutions passed the board of trustees unanimously.

“We found that we were falling outside of the best practices for compensation,” Larsen explained at the meeting. “We need to see if we can make some headway on it.”

Larsen said losing a valuable employee because of salary concerns is costly to the college — and not just financially.

“It costs us every time we have to replace anybody,” she explained. “I don’t care if it’s a facilities assistant or a vice president. We have to recruit, we have to re-train. In some cases, it’s two or three years before that person can be up to speed in doing what they need to do. It’s terribly expensive. We’re better off if we can recruit and retain good people to begin with.”

Employee compensation has become a morale issue on campus, according to Hicswa, and that’s an issue the college needs to pay attention to. Due to the lack of funding in the governor’s budget for state and college employees, by passing the resolution, the board is essentially taking the matter into its own hands.

“The board worked really hard on both of those [resolutions], they really did their research,” Hicswa said.

“We’re talking about data-based decision making, stemming from comparative analysis,” said trustee Dusty Spomer.

Hicswa said Spomer was on-point.

“As much as the emotional aspect certainly tears at our hearts and we would like to pay everybody more, these are data-based decisions with where we are with the market.”

Based on the decision by the board, Hicswa will now work with her team of budget managers to figure out the best compensation package to propose to the board.

“We’ve done a lot of analysis already, so the next step is to look at budgets and see what is reasonable to carve out,” Hicswa said. “Also, to talk to budget managers and employee groups to see what they think. The conversations that I’ve had already are pointing to a desire for those cost of living types of increases. But the research we’ve been doing shows that we’re behind market on categories of positions, as well.”

If adjustments aren’t made in those categories, the college runs the risk of losing quality employees to similar colleges or positions, as well as the ability to recruit.

“Faculty positions and administrative positions are advertised nationally, so we have to look at the national markets, because people come up from all over,” Hicswa said. “For some of our mid-level professionals, we really look at the regional kinds of comparisons. Then for some of our positions that aren’t real specific to community colleges, like IT or custodial or institutional research, they could get a job at the school district. So we have to be locally competitive, as well.”

Hicswa said staying competitive in the local market is what concerns her the most, as people who live in Powell and love the area will do what they can to stay there.

“We live in a really great place,” she said. “It’s hard to want to move and go somewhere else, even if it’s for more money. But when you can go to Cody, or down the street and make more money, why wouldn’t you?”

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