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Boreal Community Media

County Employee Wage Scale and Information Available

Dec 21, 2018 01:41PM ● By Editor

Media Release from Cook County - December 21, 2018 

Cook County employee wages have been a topic of interest in the community. The County has received a Data Request from a citizen to provide County employee wage information and a list of county employees along with heir 2017 wages and the current 2018 wages was supplied in response to that request. The County would like to provide this information to all citizens and agrees it is important for everyone to have equal access to this information, with full contextual detail. Cook County truly values the public conversation surrounding budget issues and is grateful for the thoughtful contributions many citizens have made to recent debate.

Wage data relied-upon to drive one citizen’s comments recently was from January of 2017 and November of 2018. This wage data represents more than the contracted salary increases from 2017 to 2018. The wages also include anniversary step increases from both years, and do not account for promotions or job changes, thus exaggerating increases attributed to labor negotiations.

To provide you with all the information, we’ve made the last five years of data available, including information on county-wide FTE (full time equivalency) counts. Department-level summaries have been posted to the County website at:

Annual wage increases over the last five years are:

  • 2015 - 0.29%
  • 2016 - 3.66%,
  • 2017 - 2%, 
  • 2018 - 13.4% (7.69% after adjusting for increase in employee health insurance premium payment.)

The notable difference in 2018, is due to changes in healthcare premiums (a challenge for all public organizations) and implementation of the 2016 Keystone Class/Comp Study and migration from eight-pay scales to a single pay scale. Allocation changes provide County employees and the Board an opportunity to address rising health care costs in a more proactive way in the future. The 2016 Keystone Study found that Cook County employees were compensated at an overall average of 90% of the reviewed peer group of Minnesota counties (some positions much lower) – meaning 10 % less than the majority of counties.

After implementation of the Keystone Study in 2018, in comparison to northeast Minnesota counties (Aitkin, Koochiching, Lake, Itasca, Pine, Carlton and St. Louis) the majority of wages are now at par with the region at 100% of the weighted average – with some positions still compensated slightly lower. The County must attract and retain qualified employees to deliver necessary services. Cook County’s wage scale is now directly in line with County averages. Cook County is fortunate to have many dedicated and experienced staff working hard to support community through quality public service.

Over the five-year period, there has been an increase of a total approximate of 12 FTE county-wide (6.6 FTE added to PHHS, 1.5 FTE in Law Enforcement, 1.5 FTE in Land Services, and 1FTE in Administration) to meet service demands. Staffing levels for these five years are:

  • FTE 2014 = 103.32 
  • FTE  2015 = 104.73
  • FTE 2016 = 108.26
  • FTE 2017 = 112.76
  • FTE 2018 = 115.49 


One inaccurate rumor the County has heard and would like to clarify, is a misunderstanding that one employee received a $30,000 pay raise due to the approved classification and compensation study. That is inaccurate. An increase of this magnitude would be due to significant change in breadth and depth of responsibility due to a promotion or change in position, for example being hired for a director-level position. There is certainly a wage difference between supervisor and director-level positions based on the scope of responsibility. Again, the County needs qualified people in these leadership positions and all positions, and they are compensated accordingly for responsibility, experience and education required. 

We hope this data clears up any misconceptions and answers your questions. If anyone has additional questions on County employee wages or County policies, they are welcome to contact the Board of Commissioners or the County Administrator at any time.  

Wage summaries are available at


Contact:  Jeff Cadwell, County Administrator, 218-387-3687 or [email protected]

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