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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
News >  Spokane

County considers signing bonuses for hard-to-fill positions

Spokane County could be offering signing bonuses of up to $10,000 in hopes of attracting high-quality applicants for tough-to-fill jobs.

County commissioners will vote today on a proposal that would allow the bonuses, paid in two taxed installments – the first on the day a worker reports for their job and another a year into their employment. The bonuses are capped at $10,000 for executives and department heads, $7,000 for management positions and $3,000 for sheriff’s deputies.

“What this is set up for is to address a handful of positions in the county that we have typically had difficulty recruiting for,” said Tim Hansen, an analyst in the county’s Human Resources Department. The proposal was initially forwarded by Human Resources after there was some difficulty finding a candidate to head Spokane County Jail’s nursing unit, he said.

Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich asked that deputies be included in the list of employees eligible to receive signing bonuses. He said the $3,000 bonus is necessary to compete with higher-paying positions at the Spokane Police Department.

The bonus would only be offered to deputies hired from other agencies, known as lateral officers, Knezovich said. The department already spends $3,000 training new hires at the academy.

“Lately, the lateral pool hasn’t been all that great,” Knezovich said. “It’s full of people trying to transfer from where they currently work, and they’re running from something. We want to really get the top of the lateral pool.”

The sheriff’s office lost six deputies to the Spokane Police Department in 2014, Knezovich said. One has left this year.

The measure does not ensure a job candidate will receive a bonus, instead giving county management the authority to offer the one-time pay hike when looking to hire for a specific job. Knezovich or someone in his office will have to approve the bonus for deputies, as well as county Chief Budget Officer Bob Wrigley. For positions other than law enforcement, bonuses must be approved by Wrigley and County Operations Officer John Dickson.

Several high-profile and long-tenured county employees have recently announced their retirement, including Bob Brueggemann, the county’s head engineer, and Marshall Farnell, the county’s CEO who has worked in administration since the 1970s. But Hansen said the bonuses are targeted at filling certain positions in county government, not a response to those departures.

“It’s to make our positions more attractive, including some of those positions where working conditions may be a little more challenging than others,” he said.

The county employs about 2,000 people. One hundred positions have been added since 2012, when employment dropped to its lowest level since 1999.

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