Hancock County will hire an additional staff member to help deal with work-related to payroll and benefits, but unlike many county governments in Indiana, it will remain without a human resources representative.
Members of the Hancock County Council and Board of Commissioners have discussed the issue of hiring an HR professional at numerous meetings over the past few months, but they ultimately reached the conclusion that the position would be too costly.
Instead, the county will hire a new employee who will work in the county auditor’s office and will investigate contracting with an outside firm for HR services, Commissioner John Jessup said.
Jessup said hiring an HR representative would likely require paying a salary of approximately $80,000 per year and that he worried it would lead to the creation of a new county department and the hiring of even more employees, something the county cannot afford.
“Before long, you’d have a quarter million being spent on an HR department for something that can be done more efficiently for the taxpayer,” Jessup said.
At its meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 10, the county council voted to allocate up to $10,000 to pay an outside firm to review its HR practices and identify any areas that need improvement.
The county auditor’s office deals with many of the matters that would overlap with human resources, including payroll and benefits. Auditor Debra Carnes said that workload has increased since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Payroll and benefits deputy Mary McCoy deals with that work, and Carnes is not authorized to pay her overtime for her work.
“We have met every need that’s come our way, but it’s just been very taxing,” Carnes said.
To help alleviate some of that pattern, the commissioners and county council have approved the advertisement of a new position, a benefits resource administrator. The new hire will, among other duties, oversee and enroll employees in benefits plans, help employees resolve insurance-related issues, and handle orientation for new employees.
The position will pay approximately $40,000 per year.
Carnes said she was glad to have approval from the county to hire a new employee, but added that most county governments have a dedicated HR representative on staff.
For matters going beyond run-of-the-mill payroll and benefits administration, Carnes said, employees would currently be referred to the county attorney, Scott Benkie. Department heads also receive video training on HR skills. Carnes said the county has not dealt with many employee issues that would require the involvement of a lawyer or HR firm in the past.
“As we grow, it’s obviously a concern,” she said.
The city government of Greenfield hired an HR representative, Mitch Ripley, about four years ago. Mayor Chuck Fewell said the investment of money was well worth it.
Before an HR director was hired, Fewell said, all city department heads were being asked to also be experts on human resources, which was unfair to them. Now, all of those problems and all administration of employee benefits can be handled centrally by Ripley’s office.
“An HR director for the city is the best thing that’s happened to us in quite a while,” he said.
The county will be accepting applications for the benefits resource administrator position through Feb. 19. A full job description and information on how to apply can be found at hancockcoingov.org/hancock-county-indiana-jobs.