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Park district employee salaries under review : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Park district employee salaries under review
Survey taken; director to present updated salary range plan to board in July

by Lyle R. Rolfe


Oswegoland Park District staff members salaries are being reviewed by the agency's administration officials, park board members were told during a work session meeting last week.

Rich Zielke, executive director, said the agency recently had the Management Association of Illinois complete a salary survey for the agency. He said the association is like a large human resources firm.

Zielke noted the park district averages about 350 full and part-time employees throughout the year, but at busy times as many as 500 people can be working for the agency.

He noted that the last time they did a salary survey was late-2007 or early 2008.

At the time of the last study it was determined that several positions were under the minimum salary, Zielke said.

He added that he needs to decide how to handle merit increases for employees who have reached their maximum salary rate. He noted that they have an employee with 35 years on the job, another with 25, and others who have been with the district for some time.

Board member Dave Krahn said they should strive to get all employees up to the midpoint on the scale and added that if they are beyond the midpoint they deserve to be there-not because they have been with the district for a long time.

"For us to be competitive in the marketplace what we have is people, and if the people aren't happy doing their job, it's going to be a reflection on the public and that's going to be a reflection back on the entire park district," he said.

Krahn continued, "I looked at the dollars and I think if we can agree on what we're striving for, there's ways we can minimize those costs. Maybe we have to raise our fees on some of the programs we have or we have to look at different ways of doing things?"

He continued, "I think we need to get our people to a point where they feel good about what they do, that we're paying them fairly in the marketplace. And they need to know the total sum of the package they have at the park district."

Krahn noted that the numbers in the study show that the district is not "going crazy" with its wages and added that the people don't work for the agency to make a fortune but do so because they have a passion for what they do.

Zielke said he has been working with staff members who are in charge of fees to determine whether they are at the appropriate levels to recoup the cost of providing programs, but also to take care of maintenance, repair and capital projects that will be needed.

He said the district was formed in 1950 and there are facilities that are or will be in need of work or replacement in the near future. They have been seeking grants to help pay for these needed improvements, he added. One he mentioned was an application they filed for a grant to renovate the Boulder Point community center at Ill. Route 25 and Boulder Hill Pass to better handle the needs of the community.

He said they have to consider using reserve funds, or issuing bonds to pay for such projects if grants are not approved, adding that grants are competitive because many districts apply for them.

Krahn said they need to find ways to resolve those issues without going back to the taxpayers.

He said they have many young families in the district who came to the community for the park system, the hiking and biking trails, and things to do for their children.

Board member Sandy Tartol asked about employee performance levels.

"As far as full-time people, everyone is performing at a satisfactory level if not higher," Zielke said, adding that he believes all employees are doing satisfactory work.

He said some increases were approved on May 1. Others may be approved throughout the remainder of the year, he said.

Board member Danielle Ebersole said one problem in the past is that new hires often come in making more than long-time employees doing the same work because of ranges in the market. This needs to be looked at, she said.

Zielke said he would prepare a set of salary ranges to be presented for discussion and possible approval at the July board meeting. Once new salary ranges for all positions approved, they should not need updating again for four to five years, he added.

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