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Eye On Boise

Low pay driving increased turnover at state Department of Health & Welfare

The Idaho Department of Health & Welfare, the state’s biggest agency, is down 270 positions from the 3,119 employees it had in 2008, before the recession, Director Dick Armstrong told legislative budget writers this morning. Turnover is up, rising to 15 percent in fiscal year 2013 with 399 people leaving. Those who left for the private sector reported receiving double-digit pay increases, Armstrong said. “We cannot expect them to stay on with such huge pay differentials, as well as the stress and workload.”

The two job classifications with the highest turnover: Public assistance eligibility workers and child protection social workers, which Armstrong said are “areas the state can least afford losing experienced workers.”

He urged JFAC to support the recommendation approved Friday by the joint Committee on Change in Employee Compensation, for funding an average 2 percent increase in pay for state workers next year; the panel recommended half of that be permanent, and half a one-time bonus.

Armstrong said Health & Welfare has had a “fundamental shift in our workforce” since the recession, reorganizing, reducing higher-paying jobs and hiring on additional workers “on the front lines.” “But for everything our employees have gone through, we have not been able to do much for them in return,” he said. “We are losing experienced, high-performing workers.”


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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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