Consultant: Employees topping out county salaries


Union County officials are discussing how employees are reaching the top of their pay scale and if they should address that.
Earlier this week county officials met with representatives from Clemans Nelson, a consulting firm. Officials had asked Clemans Nelson to review the county’s compensation scale. Officials said that five years ago, when the scale was created, just two county officials had reached the top of the pay scale.
“Now we have a bunch of people topped out,” said Brian Butcher of Clemans Nelson.
County officials asked if the scale needed to be increased so employees had room to increase their salaries.
Butcher said he does not believe there is a problem with the scale. He said he believes the problem is with its implementation.
“What it tells me is that elected officials are giving greater than market wage increases,” Butcher said.
The consultant explained that the scale is meant to be “position driven,” meaning it represents what each job was worth, regardless of the person in the position. He said the scale was meant to increase each year, but at a pace that aligns with market conditions. Butcher explained that the average collective bargaining increase is about 2.5%. He said that while most county employees are not members of a collective bargaining unit, it offers a look at how compensation is moving.
“I guess my concern would be that we have a lot of individuals that are topped out, which tells me that raises that they are getting are in excess of what the state average is,” Butcher said.
He said that everyone wants to be able to give their employees as much as they can. However, that desire needs to be tempered with an understanding of each job’s value.
“If somebody is at the max of their pay band, god bless them, they are at the top of their pay band, but that doesn’t mean, I don’t think, that you should rush right out and say, ‘Well I need to pay that person more. No, they are at the top of their pay band.”
Butcher said he understands that jobs evolve and responsibilities change. He said that if a person’s actual job duties do not align with the position description, there is an audit process to reclassify the job and bring compensation more in line with the job duties.
Officials talked about bonuses and lump sum payments that can be made to employees who are topped out or who perform above the position expectations.
Butcher said lump sum payments can be tricky because officials need to be able to justify them. He said if they are arbitrary, they could open the county to liability.
County Commissioner Chris Schmenk said the commissioners and human resource officials need to meet with office holders to “constantly educate them on ‘Here’s what best practices recommend. Here is what your counterparts are doing.’”
County Administrator Tim Hansley said the commissioners could dictate pay within the departments by managing budgets to the penny.
“But you never want to get to that point in the game,” he said.
Schmenk recommended a small round table discussion with the elected officials.
“Every elected official is its own employment authority and can set its own compensation,” Butcher said. “So, what you all have done here, by getting everybody’s buy in, is a good thing, but understand that at any time…they could opt out of the whole thing.”

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