Nevada lawmakers told prison, IT workers need raises
Members of the legislative money committees were told on Thursday pay upgrades for correctional officers and state IT professionals are vital to keep those staff members from leaving for higher pay.
Finance Director Jim Wells said the governor has proposed a pay grade increase for those two groups of workers. A one-grade increase is worth nearly 5 percent on the paycheck.
He said his office heard from numerous agencies the increase is vital to keep Information Technology professionals from leaving state service. He said for an IT-technician 4, the maximum state salary is $6,800 below the closest competition — local government agencies and the private sector. For an information technology Tech-3, he said the difference is $4,800.
Wells said upgrading those state workers will cost about $3 million each year of the biennium but without the increase, far too many of those workers leave for other jobs and recruiting their replacements is equally difficult.
Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, who’s an IT professional, said that added step “is going to make a huge difference.”
The other recommendation from Gov. Sandoval is a one grade increase for correctional officers from the base level to lieutenants in the prison system. That, Wells said, will cost $5.6 million in 2018 and $5.8 million in 2019.
But he said correctional officers in Nevada start at $8,500 less than local employers in the state and their maximum pay is $13,500 less than what the major jails in the state pay.
Deputy Director of Corrections John Borrowman told lawmakers the state lost 260 officers over the past year and 112 of them left for better pay and benefits and 77 for other public jobs such as the highway patrol.
“We recognize the state is probably the lowest paid level of government,” said Wells. “That’s been the case for as long as I can remember.”
But he said one grade is what the state can afford because, to bring everyone up to what local government and private businesses pay, “I don’t think the state even has enough money.”
“City managers make more than the governor,” he said.
Wells pointed out it isn’t just the pay scales. He said local government pays all of their workers’ retirement premiums while the state pays half, making the employee come up with the other half of the bill.
“That is by far and away the biggest difference,” he said.
Those grade increases would be on top of the 2 percent pay raises the governor has recommended for all state workers in each year of the coming biennium — the first real raise state workers have gotten in about eight years since the recession began. They did get a small increase two years ago, but it was eaten up by the increased retirement premium payment.
The committee took no action on the budgetary proposal.