Retaining Talent in A Tight Labor Market

April 29, 2022

Utah’s unemployment rate in the first quarter of calendar year 2022 was 2 percent – the lowest in the nation. Recognizing this fact, policymakers prioritized employee retention and recruitment during the 2022 General Session. In sum, legislators appropriated more than $210 million from the General and Education Funds (GF/EF) for salary changes – on top of benefit cost increases. These changes fall generally into three categories – across-the-board, targeted, and directed.  

State Agencies

Appropriators provided funding to increase state employees’ salaries as follows:  

  • —$54,811,100 from all sources (including $29,309,200 GF/EF) for a 3.5 percent cost of living allowance in state agencies. These funds will in general lift all wages and salary ranges across-the-board. 
  • —$37,258,500 from all sources (including $19,698,500 GF/EF) for performance-based discretionary and targeted increases for state employees. This funding is not evenly distributed and allows increases of as much as 15 percent depending on market comparability for certain job titles. 
  • —$60,444,500 from all sources (including $10,000,000 one-time and $50,078,200 ongoing GF/EF) for policymaker-directed pay raises to specific employee groups as summarized in the table below. 
Table of Directed Compensation

Higher and Public Education

Higher education institutions received $88,566,700 from all sources (including $69,339,300 EF) for labor market and performance-based raises, equivalent to a 5.75 percent increase on average. Approximately 21.7 percent of the total cost will come from student tuition. 

The Legislature does not set pay amounts for schoolteachers or other school district and charter school employees. Local education agencies and their employees negotiate those compensation changes. Legislators provided $219.1 million for a 6.0 percent increase in the value of the Weighted Pupil Unit which is for public education costs generally – potentially including compensation. Legislators do set salaries for the Utah State Board of Education and Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind (USDB). In addition to the general compensation amounts for state employees identified above, Legislators appropriated $812,600 from the Education Fund to pay step and lane costs increases at USDB. 

Contract Service Providers 

In addition to the state and education employee compensation above, the Legislature made targeted investments in salary increases for contracted direct care service provider staff who help Utahns with a disability. These increases were spread across several social and human services agencies as follows:

Division of Services for People with Disabilities (DSPD) – Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) and Intermediate Care Facility Direct Staff Rate Increase

$4,995,200 One-time in FY 2022, $24,000,000 Ongoing in FY 2023 (H.B. 2, Item 85, S.B. 3, Item 63)

There are two components in this item: (1) A rate increase to raise the average starting wage for approximately 500 direct care staff that work in Intermediate Care Facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities (ICF/ID) direct care from $12.26 to $16.00 per hour; and (2) Rate increase to raise the average starting wage for approximately 10,000 HCBS staff from $12.45 to $16.00 per hour. 

Included with this funding is a prohibition on any of this funding being used for administration-related costs or to generate provider profits. (H.B. 2, Item 85) 

While not defined as “compensation” in the labor market sense, lawmakers also appropriated $3,433,600 ongoing and $1,716,800 one-time GF/EF to DSPD for support to families who themselves care for loved ones with a disability. (H.B. 2, Item 63; H.B. 3, Item 85) 

Division of Child and Family Services – Residential and Proctor Care Treatment Rate Increase 

$2,496,100 ongoing in FY 2023 (H.B. 2, Item 87) 

This item would increase selected family-based proctor care (or certified foster care) treatment rates an equivalent of 30 percent; selected residential rates an equivalent of 25 percent; selected respite care rates by 10 percent; and increase performance-based incentives for evidenced-based programs from 5 percent to 30 percent (this amounts to 3 percent of total payout for home placements to be used for outcome-based incentives).

Division of Juvenile Justice Services (JJS) – Residential and Proctor Care Treatment Rate Increase

$1,770,700 ongoing (H.B. 2, Item 1) 

Funding would allow for increased provider rate increases for juvenile justice youth involved in: (1) Proctor Care (certified foster care); and (2) Residential Treatment. After a directed study by the Legislature on contract rates for service providers, the Department of Human Services (along with JJS) propose these rate increases to attract and retain these providers. They report that because they are below a competitive rate, they are losing providers and with more funding they could better place youth with proper higher quality providers. 

Law Enforcement Detail 

As shown in the table above, Legislators prioritized and funded directed increases for state law enforcement officers. During the summer of 2021 competing law enforcement agencies significantly increased funding for sworn officer positions and impacted the state’s ability to recruit and retain officers. The Legislature responded holistically with the following compensation increases for law enforcement across state agencies:

Attorney General’s Office – Criminal Investigators

$750,000 ongoing in FY 2023 (S.B. 8, Item 3)

Funding for this item is intended to increase salaries for investigators within the Attorney General’s Office Criminal Division like increases to other law enforcement within the state, specifically the Department of Public Safety and the Department of Corrections.

Department of Corrections – Certified Staff Pay Plan 

$20,243,200 ongoing in FY 2023 (S.B. 8, Item 9; H.B. 3, Item 102) 

Funding for this item is intended to increase salaries for Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST) certified staff within the Department of Corrections. This includes increases for correctional officers at both state prisons and Adult Probation and Parole Agents. This funding would enable the Department of Corrections to be more competitive with the surrounding counties in recruiting officers as well as retaining current certified staff. These increases would begin on July 1, 2022, but the Legislature also passed intent language allowing the Department to use internal savings to begin salary increases earlier.  

Department of Natural Resources – Peace Officers Compensation

$700,000 ongoing (H.B. 3, Item 283)

Funding supports a pay plan to improve recruitment and retention efforts for sworn officers within the Department of Natural Resources and alleviate salary compression comparable to other state agencies such as the Department of Corrections and the Department of Public Safety.  

Department of Public Safety – Crime Lab Personnel 

$781,200 ongoing (S.B. 8, Item 26)

Funding supports forensic scientist positions at the State Crime Lab to improve recruitment and retention. These increases would better align the salary range to the market rate for these positions which the Department reports are between 10 percent and 23 percent below comparable crime lab scientist positions in neighboring states.  

Department of Public Safety – Public Safety Sworn Officer Pay Plan Increase

$20,000,000 ongoing and $10,000,000 one-time (S.B. 8, Item 26; H.B. 6 Item 32) 

Funding for this item supports the recruitment and retention of the Department of Public Safety (DPS) sworn officers and addresses recent parity issues with other competing law enforcement agencies. The starting salary for an entry level trooper was $22.35/hour and ranked 32nd among all relevant law enforcement entities (compared to $31.06/hour for the starting salary for the #1 ranked entity). With this increase, funding to about $30/hour would increase and put DPS sworn officers within the top 3 of law enforcement entities.