County not ready to commit to IT staff raises

Despite the exodus of its entire information technology staff over the past 14 months, Bartholomew County officials are not yet prepared to increase salaries to compete with the private sector.

But at the same time, county commissioner Larry Kleinhenz said raises for future hires haven’t been ruled out.

“I think that once we get a director, we will revisit that,” Kleinhenz said Monday. “And based on his or her recommendations and thoughts, (IT staff raises) could be on our list.”

In addition, decisions also have to be made regarding how much computer work should be done by in-house employees — and how much by outside private contractors, commissioners chairman Rick Flohr said Monday.

“It’s probably going to be a mixture,” Flohr said. “We’re looking at options.”

Describing the move as an initial stop-gap measure, the commissioners have agreed to pay Sharp Business Systems $9,800 to cover 144 hours of help-desk computer services, with an additional $2,500 to cover 20 hours of on-call work

But those amounts are projected to cover the county’s IT needs for only a two-month period, Kleinhenz said.

Sonny Mitchell, the final remaining employee of what was once a five-member county IT staff, left his position after five months of service at the end of last week.

Since the August 2015 departure of former county IT director Jim Hartsook, seven employees have resigned from the department, including two replacement directors.

Most of the IT specialists cited higher salaries and better benefits available in the private sector as a prime reason for their departures.

While the county council agreed last spring to pay a new IT director up to $94,000 next year, a 44 percent increase from this year, other IT workers were not given comparable raises, Bartholomew County Auditor Barb Hackman said.

However, appropriating additional money for salaries “would be in the realm of the county council (rather than the commissioners),” Flohr said.

The search for a new IT director is underway, and one candidate has already been interviewed for the position, Flohr said. The county’s data board, which oversees the IT department, will remain involved in the search and selection, he said.

“We need someone soon,” Flohr said. “But we want to get the right one.”

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at or 812-379-5636.