The Transylvania Times -

Board Hears Employee Pay Plan Options – Transylvania County, NC


July 15, 2019

The Transylvania County Board of Commissioners last Tuesday received two options regarding employee compensation that are aimed at making the county more competitive in recruiting and retaining quality employees.

County Manager Jaime Laughter said the compression of salaries, in which all employees, regardless of tenure and experience, were placed within the minimum and midpoint of a potential salary range, has been a problem for the county.

As a result, veteran employees sometimes were making the same or slightly more than rookies.

She also said recruiting experienced professionals has been a challenge, partly due to the overall low unemployment rate in the region and the fact fewer students are receiving degrees in areas such as law enforcement.

The employee compensation and classification study was done with several goals, including addressing the issue of compression by rewarding experience and shifting the focus from just tenure to credentials and performance.

Evergreen Solutions, LLC was hired to conduct the study, which included a market analysis, discussions with employees, a review of job duties and recommendations.

Nancy Berkley, with Evergreen Solutions, said the firm was told by county employees that compression should be alleviated and that recruiting and retaining employees would be more challenging if salaries are not adjusted.

She also said employees believe the county provides good benefits, but that some job titles are too generic and they had some interest in linking pay to performance.

Berkley said, however, that across the pay ranges, most employee salaries were below the midpoint range. Nearly two-thirds of employees (65.7 percent) are paid in the lowest quartile of their pay range, while 21 percent are paid in the second lowest quartile. Only 13.3 percent of county employees are paid above the midpoint in their pay ranges.

“We understood that you want to be competitive,” said Berkley.

She said a pay plan needs to be equitable and flexible with pay increases being available both across the board and based on performance.

She said the firm compared salary with 13 peers.

Those peers included all of the adjacent North Carolina counties, as well as Macon, Buncombe, Pasquotank and Cleveland counties in North Carolina and Greenville County in South Carolina. Other peers included the cities of Brevard and Hendersonville, Transylvania County Schools, East Carolina University and Western Carolina Community Action Center (WCCA).

In comparing the data, Berkley said the county was 4.8 percent below the midpoint range of its peers. The midpoint is considered the “market” for employees satisfactorily performing their duties.

“So the target base would be midpoint at least,” she said.

Berkley presented a pay plan with 28 pay grades with the maximum of each pay grade being 55 percent higher than the minimum pay grade.

For example, an employee at grade 101, the lowest pay grade, the minimum would be $23,000 and the maximum would be $35,650 with a midpoint pay of $29,325.

At the highest pay grade, level 128, the minimum salary would be $116,440 with a maximum of $180,482 and a midpoint of $148,461.

Berkley presented two options. Option 1 would be based on total county tenure, education about the minimum requirement and relevant prior work experience.

The total cost to implement the plan, including employee benefits, would be $2,760,11.

Option 2 is similar to Option 1, but it would place a cap that restricts the years of experience the county would give credit for toward compensation. Those caps would be placed at five, 10 and 20 years.

The cost to implement Option 2, including employee benefits, would be $2,264,465.

Under both options, 325 county employees would receive pay adjustments.

Laughter requested the board approve an option at its next meeting in July so the pay changes can become effective in September.

Commissioner Will Cathey asked if the county had received any compensation information from Oconee County in South Carolina.

Laughter said information had been requested from three counties in South Carolina, including Oconee, but only Greenville County provided the information.

Cathey said Oconee, not Greenville, is the county’s main competitor in South Carolina and noted the county had recently lost a member of the Sheriff’s Office to Oconee County.

Cathey also asked what the differences in salary would be between Options 1 and 2 for the director of the Department of Social Services, as well as a deputy with 14 years experience in the Sheriff’s Office.

Laughter said she could not give a definitive figure because there are other factors, such as education, that would be figured in their compensation.

Commissioner Page Lemel said the proposed changes would represent a “tectonic shift” in the way employees’ are compensated because experience, education and performance would be considered.

Laughter said the older model of paying employees based primarily on experience came from an earlier time when people expected to stay with an industry throughout their careers.

She said, however, younger people no longer expect to work with one employer for their career.

“We are seeing that shift and mind set in the workforce,” said Laughter.

As a result, competition for employees has increased.

“This is real easy for me,” said commissioner David Guice, who voiced his support for Option 1.

He said employees bought into the notion that if they worked hard and stayed with an organization, they would move up the pay scale.

“The big lie is that’s not the case,” said Guice. “We’re not rewarding employees. That’s why employees are leaving.”

Guice said the fact that 65 percent of employees are in the lowest quartile verifies that employees are not progressing to at least the midpoint in their pay range.

Guice also said employees need to receive a cost of living adjustment (COLA).

He said giving employees an increase in one area but taking it away in the form of increased insurance rates or not providing a COLA sends “the wrong signal.”

Commission Chair Mike Hawkins asked if the county follows the recommendations and sets up its compensation package correctly, then it would fix the issue of compression and future increases would be based on COLA and performance.

Laughter said implementing a COLA would allow employee salaries to maintain the market pace and performance would move them higher through their salary range.

Guice said formulating a good performance pay protocol would require some “heavy lifting,” but “You want to reward those high achievers.”

Hawkins said the issue would be on the agenda for the commissioners’ next meeting.

Other News

•The board voted 4-0 to sell two pieces of county property to Annelise Hagedorn and the Brevard Tiny House Company with a resolution outlining the procedures for an upset bid. The company has offered $10,000 for a 0.1 acre lot on North Lane. The property has a tax value of $10,000.

The company also offered $15,000 for a 0.3 acre lot on Duckworth Avenue that has a tax value of $22,500.

Laughter said the City of Brevard previously had expressed interest in the Duckworth Avenue property, but the county has not heard from the city regarding the property since May of 2017.

Laughter said the company plans to build tiny homes on the lots.

Cathey said there is a “crying need” for affordable housing in the county.

Lemel said she has seen the two homes previously built by the company and “they’re absolutely gorgeous.”

Hawkins confided that he personally knows Hagedorn, and said, “I have full confidence they will do what they say they will do.”

•By a 4-0 vote, the board approved a two-year contract between the county and the Veterans History Museum of the Carolinas. The museum will pay $625 per month for utilities and incidental costs to continue using the former county administration building.

During public comments toward the end of the meeting, former commissioner Larry Chapman and museum curator Emmitt Casciato thanked the board for extending the contract.

Casciato said the museum is looking for a larger space of 15,000 to 20,000 square-feet. The current location has only 4,500 square-feet.

He said the museum’s board would like to keep the museum in Brevard and Transylvania County, but it is having difficulty finding a space.

•Laughter reported the Planning Board has drafted some changes to the noise ordinance, and the Planning Board would likely have a public input session on the changes at its August meeting.

Guice said he is “bothered” by some of the changes being recommended, but did not specify his concerns.

•Laughter said the Animal Shelter, at mid-year, reported a 95 percent live release rate.

Although the shelter does not proclaim itself to be a “no kill” shelter, the shelter surpassed the live release rate of 90 percent, which is the requirement to be a “no kill” shelter.

•Lemel will make a presentation with Jeannette Betancourt of Sesame Workshop on July 14 at the National Association of Counties Conference and Exposition in Clark County, Nev.


•Commissioner Lemel was appointed as the county’s voting delegate to the N.C. Association of County Commissioners Annual Conference Aug. 22-24.

•Patricia Roberts and Dr. Carol Maskusick were reappointed to the Regional Council on Aging. Delores Stroup also was appointed to the council.

•The board appointed Jason Stewart, who will be the county’s Planning & Community Development Director as of mid-July, as the enforcement officer and zoning administrator.

•The board appointed Jason Steward and Kate Hayes as Review Officers for the county.

Part of their duties is to certify maps and plats.


The following citizens were recognized for their service on local boards: Jeremy Gibbs, Blue Ridge Community College Board of Trustees; Gay Phillips, Board of Equalization and Review; Tom Tartt, Brevard Board of Adjustment and Appeal; Carroll Parker, Transylvania County Council on Aging; Aaron Bland, Joint Historic Preservation Committee; John Huggins Sr., Joint Historic Preservation Committee; Marcy Thompson, Joint Historic Preservation Committee; Toni Casciato, Juvenile Crime Prevention Council; Theresa Weber, Juvenile Crime Prevention Council; Anne Bullard, Library Board of Trustees; Karen Cole, Library Board of Trustees; Gregory Copeland, Parks and Recreation Commission; Daryle Hogsed, Planning Board; Mack McNeely III, Planning Board; Raymond Norris, Transportation Advisory Committee; and Allyson Davenport, Workforce Development Board.


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