FARMINGTON — San Juan College's board approved $1.7 million in raises for most of its employees.

The wage increases will be implemented over the next two school years.

During Tuesday's board meeting, board members approved the raises for faculty and staff after a study by consulting firm Condrey and Associates recommended the move to keep the college's wages competitive.

The wage study was commissioned after some employees left for jobs in the community that offered better pay, said Stacey Allen, the college's director of human resources. She said employees also noticed new hires were being paid as much as veteran employees, resulting in salary "compression."

Condrey and Associates evaluated 30 different employers — including New Mexico community colleges, the City of Farmington, San Juan Regional Medical Center and the Farmington Municipal School District — to get a benchmark of salaries and benefits.

"We wanted to make sure that our jobs were at market," Allen said. "We value our employees, and we want to try and make sure we are doing what is best to attract and retain the employees we still have."

The consulting firm suggested wage increases based on workers' actual duties and how long they have been employed at the college.

About $868,000 will be added to the budgets for the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school years. The college has a plan for how to fund the raises, said Russell Litke, the college's vice president of administrative services. But, he said, those details won't be made public until after the New Mexico Higher Education Department approves the college's budget for the 2014-2015 school year. The college must submit its budget to the state by May 1.

Litke said salary increases were split across two years to lessen the effect on the college's budgets.

"It's a little too much to swallow in one year," Litke said. "We didn't really want to push it out to three years for the sake of the employees. Two years was the happy medium."

Adjunct faculty will not be included in this round of salary increases. Allen said a plan will be devised to phase in wage increases for those instructors.

"It's something we have to plan ahead for and make sure we have the funding available to implement those," Allen said.

As of Nov. 1, the college employed 284 adjunct faculty.

The wage increase will affect 493 of the school's 536 regular employees. The study deemed 10 employees as "fully compensated," meaning they will not receive raises.

Another 33 employees are not paid through institutional funds but through state or federal grants. Allen said a decision at a later time will be made regarding wage adjustments for grant-funded employees.

Gordon DeSpain, an assistant professor of math and president of the faculty association, said the salary increases are welcome. But, he said, the focus should now shift to the adjunct faculty because they play an important role on campus.

"They are a huge contingent of educators on campus," DeSpain said. "We can't afford to lose them."

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 and Follow him @jkelloggdt on Twitter.