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County government overtime aggravated by tight labor market, officials say

JANESVILLE

The woman who last year earned more overtime pay than any other county employee in Rock or Walworth counties said she used some of the extra money to help others.

Alyce Matingwina, a registered nurse at Rock Haven nursing home, netted $57,966 in overtime pay in 2018. Some of that money went toward helping build a water well in her home village in Zimbabwe, she said.

“Nursing’s my passion … If I didn’t love my job, I wouldn’t be working overtime,” Matingwina said. “… I always wanted to go back home and help my people. I work very hard.”

The Gazette analyzed 2018 overtime paid by Rock and Walworth counties. Matingwina is one of 10 employees in Rock County and 12 in Walworth County who made more than $20,000 in overtime last year.

Both counties generally have seen overtime pay steadily grow in the past five years. Administrators in both counties agree an increasingly tight labor market is helping fuel the increase.

In 2018, Rock County spent $3.8 million on overtime, and Walworth County spent $1.8 million. More than half of all overtime pay went to workers in the counties’ sheriff’s offices and nursing homes.

The Walworth County Sheriff’s Office accounted for 70% of the county’s overtime pay last year, and the Rock County Sheriff’s Office made up 34% of all overtime.

County administrators said labor shortages have plagued each county and left employees working overtime to fill vacancies. Employees in different departments work overtime for different reasons, they said.

Rock County Administrator Josh Smith said it generally is cheaper to fill vacancies rather than pay employees overtime. But Rock County has had difficulty recruiting and retaining staff, he said, particularly certified nursing assistants.

“There’s always going to be overtime,” Smith said. “... There are things going on that are intended to reduce overtime. But one of the reasons we have overtime as high as we do, and that we expect will continue, is just the state of the economy.”

Walworth County Administrator Dave Bretl said the labor shortage is a “serious” problem and that recruiting workers for night, weekend and holiday positions is a lingering issue.

“We’ve got vacancies that we’re trying to fill,” Bretl said. “The problem with that is, when you have somebody who’s required to work long hours of overtime, it just becomes a self-perpetuating situation where they get burned out.”

Nursing homes

While the counties struggle to find workers, employees such as Matingwina are able to work more and boost their pay.

For Matingwina, more overtime means being able to fight HIV and AIDS in Zimbabwe.

Matingwina was born in Zimbabwe and moved to Wisconsin in 2000. She said she traveled to her home country last year, taught children about HIV and AIDS and donated money to a company that drilled a water well and provided drinking water to her home village, which she said will allow residents with HIV or AIDS to live longer.

“Water is life for them,” she said. “... Now, they can just go to the taps and draw the water.

“Water is precious for them. It’s so dry. There is no water. Water for them is like a diamond. ... I’m going to work harder and harder and save these people.”

Matingwina was not the only Rock Haven employee to net thousands in overtime last year. Nursing home staff recorded the second-highest overtime total among departments in each county.

Rock Haven made up 27% of Rock County’s overall overtime pay, totaling more than $1 million. Lakeland Health Care Center in Walworth County made up 15% of all overtime, costing $276,000.

Twenty-nine Rock Haven employees—11 certified nursing assistants, 10 registered nurses, five licensed practical nurses and three nursing supervisors—netted more than $10,000 in overtime last year, and 148 employees made at least $1,000 in overtime.

At Lakeland Health Care Center in Elkhorn, 10 employees—five certified nursing assistants, three licensed practical nurses and two registered nurses—made at least $5,000 in overtime. Seventy-two employees made at least $1,000 in overtime.

Bretl said a shortage of nurses and certified nursing assistants largely is causing the need for more overtime in the county’s nursing home.

Smith said in Rock Haven in the past month, there have been upward of 18 certified nursing assistant vacancies.

“That leads to a lot of overtime because those shifts have to be covered,” Smith said. “It’s hard to recruit and retain CNAs. There’s a high demand for CNAs around Rock County, the state and the country.”

Sheriff’s offices

Each county’s sheriff’s office recorded the highest overtime pay among departments.

Interestingly, each county spent about the same on sheriff’s office overtime—Rock County spent $1.28 million on overtime, and Walworth County spent $1.29 million.

Thirty-eight employees in each sheriff’s office made at least $10,000 in overtime. In Walworth County, 15 of those were deputies, 14 were correctional officers and six were sergeants.

In the Rock County Sheriff’s Office, 16 deputies, 11 correctional officers and seven sergeants made at least $10,000 in overtime.

In Rock County, 175 sheriff’s office employees made at least $1,000 in overtime. That number was 158 in Walworth County.

In January, The Gazette reported the Rock County Sheriff’s Office had 11 vacancies. Six of those were end-of-the-year retirements, and the remaining four were in court services, the ID bureau and a recreational safety deputy.

Chief Deputy Barb Tillman told The Gazette law enforcement agencies everywhere are seeing fewer candidates, which has made it difficult to keep up with losses to retirement or employees taking jobs elsewhere.

Also driving overtime costs was guarding inmates or just-arrested people at local hospitals and transporting those facing charges and needing mental-health treatment to Winnebago Mental Health, a five-hour round trip that requires two deputies, Tillman said.

Other departments

Rounding out the rest of the overtime pay in both counties were the human services departments, public works departments and, in Rock County, the 911 communications center.

Rock County’s remaining overtime pay by department was:

  • Human services: $644,903
  • Public works: $375,021
  • Communications center: $267,076
  • Public health: $2,472
  • All others: $197,869

Walworth County’s remaining overtime pay by department was:

  • Public works: $154,642
  • Health and human services: $97,095
  • All others: $36,095

Ashley McCallum 

The former home of Debra and Barry Russ at 317 Cherry St. in Evansville has since been razed after the city purchased it in December.


Obituaries and death notices for July 22, 2019

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Glenn I. Heller

Jennifer S. Louis

Terrill “Terri” Sanwick


Education
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UW-Whitewater says it has the ‘best value’ as system’s cheapest four-year school

WHITEWATER

UW-Whitewater is saying it offers the “best value” in the UW System after recently approved tuition and student cost figures show the university as the cheapest among four-year universities in the state for the upcoming school year.

This comes at a time when enrollment at UW-W has been decreasing, but the percentage of low-income students has been going up.

The UW System’s Board of Regents on July 11 approved student fees and room-and-board costs for the 2019-20 school year, according to a UW-W news release.

UW-W’s total cost, which the UW System calculated as an “average cost for the majority of students,” is $14,376. This is narrowly under UW-River Falls at $14,396.

UW-W doesn’t have the lowest tuition at $6,519, according to the figures, but does charge the lowest for student segregated fees—$1,010.

Students at UW-W, which is opening a new residence hall this fall, will see a $125 increase in room-and-board rates. This accounts for almost all of the 0.9% increase compared to last year’s total costs.

UW-W in the news release said it has held this “best value” distinction for at least five years.

The UW System figures don’t include costs for purchasing textbooks, but UW-W promoted what it calls the state’s largest rental program, which covers 95% of textbook needs and saves students “thousands of dollars.”

UW-W also brought up free printing and laundry in residence halls to explain where they’re saving money.

UW-W also recently shared that EdSmart.org ranked the university as the sixth best online education program in the country.

Interim Chancellor Cheryl Green, who will soon depart to make way for Dwight C. Watson, the next permanent chancellor, said in the release that UW-W officials, “take pride in being responsible stewards of the funds entrusted to us.”

“UW-Whitewater has invested this money very wisely to enhance the student experience with outstanding programming and gorgeous facilities to make our campus a true ‘home’ where students can learn, live and work,” she said.

A spokesperson for UW-W directed clarifying questions on the numbers to the system, which could not immediately be reached.

Enrollment at UW-W has gone down in the past two school years after eight years of increases.

Matt Aschenbrener, the associate vice chancellor for enrollment and retention, said he expects enrollment to be down again this year. But numbers relevant to the following school year’s class—such as campus visits, often done by current or soon-to-be high school seniors—make him believe an increase is on its way.

UW-W is a regional university, he said, and so they need to be cognizant of who lives in the area and how the costs of higher education are “very expensive.” He said they market against some Illinois schools whose in-state costs are more expensive than out-of-state figures at UW-W.

“We do a very good job of trying to keep our costs as low as we can,” he said.

Aschenbrener said some expenses at UW-W, such as those associated with deferred maintenance and health care, are rising. But there are other ways for the university to keep costs down.

Does this translate to more low-income students choosing UW-W?

The percentage of new and first-year students who received federal Pell Grants was higher in the 2017-18 school year—31.7%—than any of the four previous school years, according to numbers Aschenbrener shared.

UW System figures show an increase among the entire undergraduate population, too, from 27.7% in 2016-17 to 28.6% in 2017-18. The percentages from 2010-11 to 2015-16 were all higher than 29.8%, however.

The university also recently shared that EdSmart.org ranked the university as the sixth best online education program in the country.

Aschenbrener said they market the university’s value to prospective students.

“So we’re able then to take that and show the families that it’s great to stay in the region, stay local, for a university and get a great experience,” he said. “So you don’t have to go far to get a great education.”

Update: This article was updated at 11:27 a.m. Monday to reflect a spokesperson for UW-Whitewater directed clarifying questions on the numbers to the UW System. 

This article was also updated Wednesday to correct the title for Matt Aschenbrener as associate vice chancellor for enrollment and retention.


Dan Lassiter 

Josh Smith


Dave Bretl