Pay study work to de­lay bud­get

The Standard Journal - - FRONT PAGE - By Kevin Myrick [email protected]­stan­dard­jour­nal.com

The Polk County Com­mis­sion will be push­ing back when they’ll ap­prove a 2020 fis­cal year bud­get to their Au­gust meet­ing in or­der to fin­ish up work on a change in the pay scale for em­ploy­ees that be­gan in 2018.

A long-awaited pay study re­mains in draft form from the Carl Vin­son In­sti­tute of Gov­ern­ment at the Uni­ver­sity of Ge­or­gia, but it get­ting close enough to com­ple­tion for Com­mis­sion­ers to be­gin dis­cussing how to im­ple­ment their pro­posed new pay scale for em­ploy­ees and where funds will come from to en­sure the county bud­get can cover the price tag of be­tween $800,000 and $1.2 mil­lion.

Those fig­ures pro­posed by County Man­ager Matt Den­ton dur­ing a June 11 bud­get work ses­sion set to discuss the pay study doesn’t in­clude the ad­di­tional money that would be needed to fund in­creases for the 2020 Fis­cal Year.

For now, the county will op­er­ate un­der a con­tin­u­ing res­o­lu­tion as they have in the past few years to settle bud­get num­bers for the com­ing year, and to fig­ure out whether a mill­age rate in­crease will be re­quired as well for the com­ing tax bills.

Com­mis­sion­ers set­tled on a plan to

ap­prove the bud­get in Au­gust to al­low for county ad­min­is­tra­tion the ad­di­tional time they’ll need to make bud­get ad­just­ments for the year.

“There are sev­eral things that we’ll go over that I think we’ll need to have in place to get the pay sys­tem up for con­sid­er­a­tion,” Com­mis­sion Chair Jen­nifer Hulsey said dur­ing the sec­ond bud­get work ses­sion ear­lier in the month.

No one ar­gued with the idea and to al­le­vi­ate the bud­get is­sue for the time be­ing, com­mis­sion­ers will con­sider at the be­gin­ning of July a con­tin­u­ing res­o­lu­tion to keep the bud­get fig­ures in place for the time be­ing un­til ev­ery­thing can be fi­nal­ized and salary re­quire­ments be ad­justed in the FY 2020 pro­posed bud­get.

County Man­ager Matt Den­ton said the move to Au­gust approval for the FY 2020 bud­get will also help in be­ing able to com­fort­ably de­ter­mine where the mill­age rate will need to be set ahead of tax bills go­ing out in Septem­ber to county prop­erty own­ers.

A 48-page draft re­port pro­vides Polk County with an overview on how the pay study was con­ducted, and what method­ol­ogy they used to de­ter­mine what po­si­tions would be clas­si­fied in the new pay scale struc­ture.

It re­quired the Carl Vin­son In­sti­tute to gen­er­ate new po­si­tion de­scrip­tions, to put in place a grad­ing sys­tem of where those job should be in the pay scale based on both the re­quire­ments of the job and mar­ket trends around the area and state, and to then gen­er­ate two dif­fer­ent ta­bles for the pay scale: one for gen­eral em­ploy­ees, and one specif­i­cally tai­lored to those in public safety.

Those pay scales are de­signed to take into ac­count both the num­ber of years on the job an em­ployee has, plus their level of train­ing or higher ed­u­ca­tion at­tained for their po­si­tion.

So for in­stance where the pay scale starts at a pro­posed $19,807 for a brand new, Grade A-7 em­ployee who doesn’t have a year of ex­pe­ri­ence yet, it can go all the way to a Grade V-24 at $111,944 for an em­ployee with 40-plus years of ex­pe­ri­ence and ed­u­ca­tion in an ad­min­is­tra­tive po­si­tion. On av­er­age and in draft form, em­ploy­ees un­der a gen­eral gov­ern­ment pay scale in the county could range from $30,000 to $50,000 a year in salary com­pen­sa­tion based on years of ex­pe­ri­ence and their job grade.

This is com­pletely sep­a­rate from the grad­ing scale put in place for Public Safety of­fi­cials. Their salary re­quire­ments, say for an An­i­mal Con­trol of­fi­cer with no ex­pe­ri­ence, could be $25,015 a year and range to a 40-year vet­eran of the de­part­ment at a pro­posed $37,915 a year. The dis­patch­ers and op­er­a­tors within 911 would start at a pro­posed $28,441 a year for a salary, and go up to $51,449 a year based on ex­pe­ri­ence of again some­one with 40-plus years of ser­vice.

Polk County Po­lice Of­fi­cers would be in three dif­fer­ent grade ranges and run from $34,889 a year to up­ward of $61,918 a year based on ex­pe­ri­ence and time in uni­form. Sher­iff’s deputies and jail­ers would have seven grades rang­ing from a pro­posed be­gin­ning salary of $28,251 a year for the first grade, all the way to $77,026 a year at the high­est grade with the most time in uni­form with the county at 40-plus years.

There’s an al­ter­nate ver­sion of the pay scale ta­bles for Public Safety of­fi­cials that brings some of the first-year costs down, and would start an An­i­mal Con­trol of­fi­cer out at $27,659 for a brand new em­ployee and range up­ward to $41,922 a year in salary for those with 40-plus years ex­pe­ri­ence in the de­part­ment. The 911 ser­vice would start dis­patch­ers out at around $30,000 a year un­der this plan, and they would cap out at more than $54,000 a year an­nu­ally.

Po­lice of­fi­cers, Sher­iff’s deputies and jail­ers in an al­ter­nate pay ta­ble have sim­i­lar salaries ad­justed as well.

Ad­di­tion­ally, there’s one other side of the new pay scale that will in­crease costs as well in the form of pay­roll taxes and ben­e­fits for em­ploy­ees. Both the cost of pay­ing the county’s por­tion of cov­er­age for fed­eral and state in­come and pay­roll de­duc­tions like So­cial Se­cu­rity and Medi­care taxes will have to be ac­counted for as the pay scale in­creases for each em­ployee, as well as for cov­er­ing re­tire­ment ben­e­fits as well.

Cur­rent full-time pay­roll ac­cord­ing to the re­port for the county is more than $8.3 mil­lion. Un­der ei­ther plan, it would at least send pay­roll to at the low end $9.1 mil­lion, or un­der the al­ter­nate plan up­ward of more then $9.1 mil­lion.

Some of the pay­roll — es­pe­cially in ar­eas like spe­cial­ized po­si­tions within the court sys­tem needed for day-to­day op­er­a­tions — are funded through the help of state or fed­eral grants which does de­fer some of the an­nual pay­roll costs. Much of the salary bur­den for full and part time em­ploy­ees still falls on county ad­min­is­tra­tion and com­mis­sion­ers to find ad­di­tional fund­ing within the bud­get.

The re­port gen­er­ated pay fig­ures based on not just the grade of the po­si­tion, but how sim­i­lar or same po­si­tions within sur­round­ing coun­ties and those around the state with sim­i­lar pop­u­la­tions as Polk County paid to em­ploy­ees.

Those in­cluded Bar­tow, Car­roll, Douglas, Pauld­ing, Gor­don, Bald­win, Colquitt, Gilmer, Haber­sham and Mur­ray coun­ties, along­side the Cities of Car­roll­ton, Dou­glasville, Rome, Ac­worth, Cartersvil­le, Pow­der Springs, Cedar­town, Rock­mart and Buchanan. Ad­di­tional wage study fig­ures were also used in calculatio­ns from Banks, Chat­tooga, El­bert, Fan­nin, Franklin, Greene, Hart, Jack­son, Lump­kin, Rabun, Stephens, Towns, Union and White coun­ties.

“The in­for­ma­tion on this sur­vey helped as­sess the com­pet­i­tive­ness of Polk County’s salaries to the broader la­bor mar­ket (all industry sec­tors) within the North Ge­or­gia non-metropoli­tan area,” the study re­ported.

Of­fi­cials from the Carl Vin­son In­sti­tute said in their draft study pro­vided to the county com­mis­sion that com­pres­sion of salaries be­tween em­ploy­ees with dif­fer­ent lev­els of ex­pe­ri­ence might be an is­sue based on the new grad­ing sys­tem, which was built into the fi­nal cost of the two al­ter­nate pay grade plans. So they sug­gest a one-time ad­just­ment to fix the prob­lem for only el­i­gi­ble em­ploy­ees.

“The el­i­gi­bil­ity for the com­pres­sion ad­just­ment is based on two fac­tors. The first cri­te­ria is an em­ployee’s time in their cur­rent po­si­tion with Polk County. The sec­ond el­i­gi­bil­ity re­quire­ment for the com­pres­sion ad­just­ment is re­lated to an em­ployee’s pro­posed salary rel­a­tive to their step on the com­pen­sa­tion plans,” the re­port stated. “As a re­minder, the In­sti­tute of Gov­ern­ment de­signed the steps on all of the com­pen­sa­tion plans to be linked to an em­ployee’s time in their cur­rent po­si­tion.”

An­other sug­ges­tion within the draft re­port that will also in­crease pay­roll costs in the fu­ture is the need for an­nual mar­ket ad­just­ment to salaries to re­main com­pet­i­tive, along with “ad­di­tional in-range salary ad­just­ments (i.e. step in­creases, etc.) to in­di­vid­ual em­ploy­ees based solely on or a com­bi­na­tion of their length of ser­vice, per­for­mance, and knowl­edge/ skill ac­qui­si­tion. Th­ese in­di­vid­ual ad­just­ments would be ap­plied as an in­crease within the re­spec­tive salary range of each em­ployee.”

“Thus, Polk County may bud­get for two an­nual per­son­nel cost ad­just­ments: 1) an across-the-board in­crease which raises every em­ployee’s salary and pay equally when mar­ket con­di­tions dic­tate, and 2) an­nual in­di­vid­ual em­ployee in­creases linked to em­ployee ser­vice, knowl­edge/skill ac­qui­si­tion, and/ or per­for­mance,” the re­port stated.

Ad­di­tional dis­cus­sion was held dur­ing the June bud­get work ses­sion over how an­nual step in­creases for cost of liv­ing ad­just­ments will be han­dled un­der the new pay scale, and Den­ton asked the com­mis­sion when they do make those an­nual ad­just­ments to stick with a flat rate, and not some­thing like 1.25 or 1.75 per­cent to make fig­ur­ing out the costs of an­nual ad­just­ments eas­ier.

Den­ton also pointed out that some peo­ple with more spe­cial­ized ed­u­ca­tion or train­ing — such as a me­chanic with tech­ni­cal cer­tifi­cates or some­one with a de­gree in a field that will fur­ther their ben­e­fit to the county as an em­ployee — should also get ad­di­tional grade steps added to their salary re­quire­ments.

He pointed to­ward the idea that “we’ll get a more well­rounded em­ployee” out of those with ad­vanced de­grees be­ing hired or those who are willing to con­tinue their ed­u­ca­tion.

“You could fit in any po­si­tion that would ben­e­fit from that de­gree,” Den­ton said.

Com­mis­sion­ers agreed in prin­ci­ple, but pointed out that some lim­i­ta­tions needed to be put in place based on the type of de­gree. For in­stance, com­mis­sion­ers pointed to­ward the ex­am­ple of a me­chanic’s train­ing be­ing of more value than that of say, a den­tal hy­gien­ist who might seek the same po­si­tion in Public Works, but not have the same back­ground.

The County Com­mis­sion’s Fi­nance Com­mit­tee is gath­er­ing Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon for a meet­ing to discuss any po­ten­tial er­rors that might need cor­rec­tion by the Carl Vin­son In­sti­tute, as well as work to fi­nal­ize where funds in the an­nual bud­get will be drawn from to help cover the cost of pay scale ad­just­ments. That meet­ing is be­ing held at 2 p.m. in the County Ad­min­is­tra­tion’s con­fer­ence room in Cedar­town.

kevin Myrick

County Man­ager Matt Den­ton and Fi­nance Di­rec­tor Muriel Du­laney talked about the dif­fer­ent fig­ures pro­vided in the re­cent Carl Vin­son In­si­ti­tute Pay Study draft pre­sented to the County Com­mis­sion in June.

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