Mesa Co. pay freeze impacts turnover

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) -- Mesa County employees have been under a pay freeze since 2009 and now some department heads believe it’s causing their more experienced workers to look for higher paying jobs elsewhere.

Mesa County District Attorney Pete Hautzinger said since the freeze went into effect, 11 of his 22 attorneys have left the office for jobs in private practices or other fields.

“They take these jobs knowing they could make a whole lot more money in private practice but they do it because they want to do the right thing,” he said. “Then, four years with not so much as a cost of living raise makes it tougher to justify.”

Sheriff Stan Hilkey said he’s also losing staff who are choosing to work for other nearby municipalities not currently under a pay freeze. As a result, he’s seeing more turnover.

“With the number of deputies we have authorized to serve our citizens, you just can’t afford openings,” Hilkey said.

County officials cite low sales and property tax revenue as the reason for the pay freeze.

“We don't feel that it's responsible to raise pay as revenue has gone down because we can't sustain it and we’ll have to cut services,” said Tom Fisher, Mesa County Administrator.

Fisher projects the freeze to continue into 2014. He said the county is working on minimizing the effects of increases in health insurance premiums to help cushion the impact of the freeze.

Hautzinger said with public defenders making more money than district attorneys, it’s ultimately the people of Mesa County who suffer from the freeze and turnover it creates.

“The people of Mesa County are not well served by having less experienced, less well paid prosecutors representing them in court against more experienced better paid tax payer funded defense attorneys,” Hautzinger said. “That's not good and it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me.”

Click the link below for salary reports for each Mesa County employee.

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