County Responds To Criticism Over Raises

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The county reorganization of its employees has opened a wound over salary structure.

When Steve Besich vacated the job of Gila County manager to take a job with Governor Napolitano's administration, the resulting reorganization included salary increases that have sparked criticism. Some taxpayers believe the top positions are paid too much, while lower-ranking employees remain underpaid.

Department heads and select staff members had an average salary increase of about $5,000.

Former finance director John Nelson, the new county manager, went from a salary of $80,718 to $92,827, due to his promotion.

Nelson's assistant and head librarian, Jacque Griffin, received a pay increase of almost 19 percent after the recent reorganization. Nelson cited added responsibilities due to the elimination of some positions as one major reason for certain increases.

"After the reorganization, some people had added responsibilities and they were adequately compensated for those duties," Nelson said.

Gila County Dist. 1 Supervisor Ron Christensen agreed, stating that some female employees had been receiving lower salaries than their male counterparts for the same work and their salaries had to be adjusted accordingly.

"What (the critics) aren't saying is that we saved a total of $16,000 during this restructuring," Christensen said.

"Our final cost was lower after everyone was adequately compensated," Nelson said.

Despite assertions that top county employees are paid too much, Gila County remains 9 percent below average in Arizona.

Nelson said that one of his goals as county manager will be to balance the budget and address the issue of county employee salaries and benefits.

Nelson is hopeful that rural representation in Napolitano's administration will demand that counties such as Gila will receive more attention than in past administrations.

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