The Osage Nation’s congressional Appropriations Committee unanimously voted April 20 to recommend a 10 percent raise for all tribal employees except elected officials and staffers appointed by the chief.
Assuming Congress approves the raise, as it is expected to do, the cost-of-living adjustment might be reflected in paychecks issued May 27, said Tyler McIntosh, the acting treasurer.
“That’s the earliest we could shoot for; it may be the next payroll,” he told the Appropriations Committee. “Usually we like to have 30 days to work on something like that for sure.”
The raises will affect about 480 employees and contractors, including those who work at the clinic. McIntosh said that no additional appropriation will be needed to cover the added $561,000 in payroll and fringe benefit costs attributable to the raises. While the executive budget can cover the increase for all employees, McIntosh said that he intends to use federal money to fund the bump in pay for those working under federal contracts and grants
The Nation has the extra money to cover the added cost due to jobs going unfilled for one reason or the other. For instance, the Nation has repeatedly tried to hire a treasurer but has received no applications from candidates who were both qualified and willing to serve in that post.
Director of Operations Casey Johnson dispelled doubts from a couple of congress members that the raise would prompt a hiring freeze.
“If there is a position advertised that is empty, the unpaid salary would be accumulating as we speak,” Johnson said. “The longer it takes to fill that position, the longer that salary would stack up. I know I’m stating the obvious, but you don’t pay somebody what their yearly salary is, you pay them from when they start.
Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear asked for the legislation, which was sponsored by Congressman Scott BigHorse, because of the high inflation all Americans are facing. According to McIntosh, the Federal Reserve of Cleveland, Ohio, currently forecasts the inflation rate about 8.14 percent. Prices have increased most dramatically for oil and gas, but other sectors have also seen steep price increases.