Human Resources Shortfall Drive Some County Department Budgets

county commission

Human Resources Shortfall Drive Some County Department Budgets 

Cari Drees 

Budgets and Human Resources have been in the forefront of the Clay County Commissioner meetings as they work with departments to approve projects and operating expenses for the upcoming fiscal year. Information Technology, Human Resources, Recorder’s Office, and Technology Services have presented budgets that fall in line with expected costs with the exception of Technology Services. Rory Schmitz, Director of Technology Services noted that they have seen price increases due to price increases in the industry as a whole. “We have looked for cheaper alternatives to extend the life of the services that we have.” and tried to balance the costs with the needs. The department requested several items in the Other Professional Services Fund. The first is a Threat Emergency Management program that was, in the past, offered as a pilot program to Clay County. This service will now be a paid program at $8500. Schmitz stressed that this program is critical to the infrastructure of the technology systems and is a emerging need. Replacing the legacy clock systems, a project that would be spread over two years, is a countywide need as the old clocks are faded and not displaying digits properly. Audio Visual items including microphones and screens, are also in need of replacements and they have already begun a cost analysis for replacements in order of use and demand. The fourth request, starting to replace the CoVid-19 laptops, generated more discussion as the cost came in at nearly $75,000. Commissioner Mongeau stated that “we are in a time where there is a new flexibility for folks to do work remotely and not having to travel” while Commissioner Ebinger made a request to investigate the use of ARPA funds to offset these costs.

Human Resource Director Darren Brooke has a unique program designed to help recruitment for open positions within the Clay County Sheriff’s Office, a department that has significant challenges in recruitment and retention. Brooke said that “…with the tight job market and a shortage of employees especially in our 24/7 operations” … there has been a challenge” with “recruiting difficulties to fill those open positions”. He proposed that Clay County Sheriff’s Office adopt a pilot program to attract new talent while rewarding existing employees. Encouraging and incentivizing existing employees to recruit new employees within the department could lead to implementing the same program throughout the county. This program, when ready to roll out on July 15, could consist of sign on bonuses, decreased hiring time, and/or hiring at higher levels, and cash payouts to the referring employees.  Current recruitment strategies would remain in place – booths and colleges, universities and county fairs, creative flyers, and handouts for both current employees and potential recruit use as well as increased social media and web presence.

In addition to the HR department work on the talent recruitment project Brooke was also tasked with researching and implementing participation in a Performance Measurement Program run by the State Auditor. The intent of this program is to determine how Clay County is doing with each department in the county. As of right now 1/3 of the MN counties participate in this program with results posted on the county website. Commissioner Campbell questioned the use of this information. The cost is covered by the state, determined by county population. Commissioner Campbell asked if we have statistics regarding use and review of the compiled information and was assured that the information can be pulled as needed.

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