PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota state employees are still on track to receive a 6% pay raise this year. 

Gov. Noem made the pay increase announcement in her budget address in December and called for “targeted pay raises.” South Dakota Bureau of Human Resources Darin R. Seeley told a panel of lawmakers on the Joint Appropriations Committee Friday the pay increase for state workers keeps the state “competitive” as well as “affordable” for the state moving forward. 

Commissioner Seeley told lawmakers South Dakota state employees’ median wage is 8.9% less than the public and private market average in South Dakota and six surrounding states. In 2013, the number was as high as 17.3%, Seeley said. 

The state report says “additional work is needed in coming years to impact specific positions that lag significantly behind similar jobs in the market.” 

Commissioner Seeley showed lawmakers 15% of state workers are listed as making below the grade minimum, but 14% of those are in the 75-79% of the market value. 

Seeley also showed a breakdown of how the targeted pay increases would work for the South Dakota Department of Corrections. The pay levels relate to how many years a person works in the level of positions. 

The entry level position of Correctional Officer starts at $20 an hour and someone in that position with 30 years or more would make $23.27. You can see a breakdown in the chart below. 

From the South Dakota Bureau of Human Resources.

When asked about how to curb turnover with the DOC, Seeley said focusing on improving both the work environment and better payment is needed but noted high-risk professions will always have some level of turnover.  

New health care plans 

Last year, the legislature passed a bill to change how the state offers health care insurance to state employees. 

The goal when changing health care plans was to allow the state to give “more stable and predictable” health care benefits. In Fiscal Year 2020, the state paid out $61.7 million in medical and pharmacy health care claims. The number went down to $61.2 million in FY 2021 and $59.1 million in FY 2022.  

At the end of the meeting, Kathy Boysen, a Department of Social Services employee for 19 years, told lawmakers without a court order, she wouldn’t have been able to provide insurance for her kids. 

She explained how she believed she completed health enrollment online, but did not receive notification it was complete. She said the state was slow on notifying her she’d missed the deadline to apply for health insurance. 

Eric Ollila, with the South Dakota State Employees Organization, thanked lawmakers for their concerns and questions about issues state employees face. He noted state employees rely heavily on lawmakers for any changes. He helped share comments he received from state employees. Many of the complaints focused on the changes to health insurance and finding competitive pay.

Ollila also pointed out other state employees not directly under the control of the executive branch, like state workers for the judiciary or the legislature received an 8% pay raise. 

He said lawmakers should ask about seeing injury reports in high risk jobs and spoke about concerns working with a new group of lawmakers next year.