Guilford may seek help for equity woes

Sep. 23, 2013 @ 06:07 PM

A salary equity study commissioners set aside last week was not broad enough to solve several pay and performance problems County Manager Marty Lawing discovered after he began work in May.
And Lawing wants to call on experts at the Piedmont Triad Regional Council for help.
First: Employees in nearly half the county departments have not received a performance review in the past four years.
“At some point, these departments stopped doing performance evaluations when there was no merit pay tied to it,” Lawing said at a Board of Commissioners workshop. “Employees should be evaluated whether there’s merit pay associated with it or not.”
Lawing said every employee will be evaluated annually, beginning in June.
Second: Until performance is documented and job markets considered, the manager said he had no salary plan recommendation for commissioners.
“There has not been an external review done,” Lawing said. “I can’t make a recommendation based on this equity study.”
Commissioners on a 7-2 vote set aside the Evergreen Resources equity salary study that if approved could cost as much as $3.8 million to upgrade pay for 600 county employees.  Republican Commissioner Jeff Phillips agreed with Lawing.
“There is no performance variable in this equity study,” he said. “Some people perform at higher levels than others. It is not all about the numbers.”
The $34,000 Evergreen study proposed raises based on an unbiased point system considering experience, qualifications and tenure. Lawing said he would prefer starting with a job classification study and then a market salary study before considering equity, or how salaries compare with comparable jobs within county government.
“The COG has some expertise,” he said. “We should have a discussion with them.”
True Equity Cases: There are only about 10 cases that have strong equity issues, Lawing said. 
“These are clear-cut,” he said.  “There are a couple of hundred in the gray area.”
Commissioners approved the survey of all 2,500 county employes after awarding in response to a complaint late last year pay adjustments to 15 top administrators either hired by commissioners, elected by voters, or who report to the county manager or independent boards.
“Performance has to be considered,” said Democratic Commissioner Bruce Davis of High Point. “There has to be a baseline. What we have seen so far is cut and dried. There is no incentive for a person to move to another job at the same level.”
Commissioners seemed to prefer a gradual approach to approaching the studies and raises.
“We need to move forward with this and make it right,”  said Chairwoman Linda Shaw.

County Performance

Equity: With years of county employee pay freezes, some new employees are paid more for doing the same work than longtime staffers, creating liability for the county.