Johnson County Council to consider longevity pay for county employees

Employees who have worked for Johnson County’s government for more than a year could see a pay boost next year.

After a request from the Johnson County Council, the Auditor’s Office is now determining the feasibility of offering longevity pay to the mix to attract and retain employees.

The council is entertaining several longevity pay scenarios and would pick the one that seems the most financially feasible. The longevity pay would be in addition to raises of up to 6% that are also being discussed for all employees, council president Pam Burton said at their meeting Monday.

Council members Ron Deer and John Ditmars worked with Waggoner Irwin Scheele & Associates, a human resources consulting group, to develop three possible scales for longevity pay. The different scales have different times for the longevity pay to start and at what year the pay would max out at.

Different county officials have talked about longevity pay over the years, but this year the council has decided to give it a serious look as they prepare the 2025 budget. Adding longevity pay is both a way to reward and retain current employees, Deer said.

“Its primary purpose is so we have the ability to reward those who are loyal to the county — those who are showing up every day and doing their job,” Deer said.

The longevity pay could also help attract the sort of candidates who would like to stay in the same job long-term. Currently, about 40% of counties in Indiana offer longevity pay, Deer said.

Each council member shared their thoughts on the idea of longevity pay. Johnathan T. Myers said he would support it as long as the numbers show the budget can support it.

“If we have a $22 million salary budget, and these can be as much as 5% that number becomes appreciable. … This is a heavy lift [if] we decide to do it,” Jonathan T. Myers said.

As someone who has worked for the county both as an employee and an elected official, Burton sees a lot of benefits to longevity pay. However, before seeing the numbers, she said she’s 50/50 on whether she could support it.

“My personal opinion being a 30-plus-year employee is that this helps with retention of experience. It’s recognition of service. It’s a morale boost it can be cost-effective. The institutional knowledge that you could maintain is something you can’t put a price tag on,” Burton said. “I believe it enhances productivity as well. People have something to look forward to and it also provides a competitive advantage.”

Ditmars generally objects to the idea of longevity pay but is open to thinking about it if the budget could support it, he said.

“I’ve got mixed emotions because the whole notion of longevity pay — and paying someone to come and do what they’re being paid to do in the first place — is what I’m trying to get over,” Ditmars said.

John Myers, another council member, supports the idea of longevity pay but would want to see the rate of longevity pay be a flat rate, rather than giving higher increases mid-career and lower increases later, he said.

Council member Melinda Griesemer was enthusiastic about longevity pay.

“I think I’d like to go ahead and make a vote for it today,” Griesemer said.

She also asked about longevity pay for elected officials, saying she has a “little bleeding heart” for elected officials who serve a long time. However, the consensus seemed to be that — since elected officials are elected for a set time — they wouldn’t qualify for longevity pay.

If the council does go forward with longevity pay, the idea is to make it a line item in the salary ordinance. The pay would only be guaranteed for each specific budget year, Burton said.

“Everyone needs to keep in mind this does not lock us in — or lock anyone in — for the 2026 budget. It can be removed as quickly as it was put in,” Burton said. “So, it’s not something that once it’s done, it’s going to move forward every year.”

The council is expected to make a decision on longevity pay during a special meeting they set for 6 p.m. June 3. Council members will also decide the percentage raise amount for all employees during this meeting.