The Transylvania Times -

Commissioners Approve $2.7 Million Pay Plan – Transylvania County, NC


July 25, 2019

The Board of Commissioners Monday unanimously approved a roughly $2.7 million pay plan the board believes will help make the county more competitive in recruiting and retaining quality employees.

County employees’ pay will be adjusted in September in what Commissioner Jason Chappell called a “significant change” in how the county compensates its employees. On top of the pay plan, commissioners approved employees receiving a cost of living adjustment (COLA) increase in February. The exact amount of the increase won’t be known until January when the consumer price index (CPI) is released.

As previously reported, during its July 9 meeting, 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 said recruiting experienced professionals has been a challenge, partly due to the overall low unemployment rate in the region and that fewer students are receiving degrees in areas such as law enforcement.

To address these issues, an 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, dis-cussions with employees, a review of job duties and recommendations.

At the July 9 meeting, commissioners were given two options.

On Monday, commissioners voted for the following option:

•Using the proposed open-range plan, employees’ salaries will be adjusted using total county tenure, education above minimum requirements and relevant prior work experience (beyond what is required for their classification) at employment.

Then, the employee’s total tenure, education and relevant prior work experience will be placed in the respective pay grade. This option places no restriction on the amount of experience (both tenured experience and relevant prior work experience) that the county would give credit for toward compensation.

For example, an employee with eight years of total tenure and eight years of additional experience would be placed at 53.3 percent of their pay range.

Employees already at or above their calculated parity amounts would be unaffected.

This option will cost, including employee benefits, $2,760,111 and will impact 325 county employees.

The other option was similar to the one approved, but it would have placed a cap that restricts the years of experience the county would give credit for toward compensation. Those caps would have been placed at five, 10 and 20 years.

The cost to implement this option, including employee benefits, would have been $2,264,465.

The county’s Personnel Board had recommended this cheaper option, but Laughter noted that was partly because commissioners had already budgeted $2.3 million. To make up the difference, commissioners will use money from the fund balance.

Commissioner Comments

According to Evergreen Solution’s findings, nearly two-thirds of county employees (65.7 percent) are paid in the lowest quartile of their pay range, while 21 percent are paid in the second lowest quartile.

For Commissioner David Guice, that fact told him the county has a “problem.”

“And the reason that we have that problem is because of decisions that have been made in the past,” he said. “For whatever reason, employees could not move through the pay range.”

Guice said it was an “easy decision” for him to support the more expensive option, calling it the “fairest,” and he backed the county approving the COLA in February.

Commissioners Page Lemel and Will Cathey agreed with Guice.

Chappell agreed as well, but said he was concerned from a budgetary standpoint, noting the county has many other needs to address.

Implementing the change, he said, implies the county employees are the “most important thing” in the county and he called it the “biggest change in philosophy.”

He said previous boards were operating in a different economic environment. The economy is changing, he said, and the county is facing recruiting challenges that are forcing commissioners to take action to keep providing adequate services.

Commission Chairman Mike Hawkins said it was not contradictory of Chappell to say he supported the plan but was concerned about the cost, but that if staff is the county’s “greatest asset,” commissioners needed to “step up.”

Commissioners then voted to approve the funding. Several members in the audience applauded the decision.

Other Action

•Veterans Service Officer Frank Pearsall gave an annual report on the distribution of U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs expenditures in Transylvania County. Since 2005, the veteran population in Transylvania County has been going down.

For 2018, the veteran population was 3,171. Of those, 887 veterans used the VA hospital in Asheville for services.

The amount of expenditures has steadily increased, with the exception of 2018. In 2018, total expenditures in Transylvania County were $20,542,000, a decrease of $298,000 from the previous year. The majority of the expenditures were for compensation and pension ($9,697,000) and medical ($10,002,000).

•Commissioners approved the members on the Cedar Mountain Small Area Planning Committee.

In January, commissioners approved the Small Area Planning Process as presented by the Planning & Community Development Department on behalf of the Planning Board.

The approval was in line with the Transylvania County 2025 Comprehensive Plan to facilitate community-based workshops to identify local concerns and help create possible solutions.

The Cedar Mountain community expressed an interest in having a plan that would be adopted by commissioners, with the possibility for enforceable ordinances or regulations to achieve the plan’s goal. Chappell and Cathey voted against the appointments. Chappell and Cathey had also voted in January against the creation of a process to develop small area plans.

At Monday’s meeting, Chappell reiterated that he has a “philosophical problem” with developing small area plans, calling it “back-door zoning” and suggested it could then occur in other communities in the county.

Cathey shared Chappell’s “philosophical” concerns. Nine people applied to be committee members.

Commissioners appointed a five-member committee, including Lucia Gerdes, Mark Tooley, Tom Oosting, Curley Huggins and Candy Gray.

•Commissioners approved hiring Mary Ann Hollocker, who has been previously working part time, to the full-time position of special county attorney for social services matters.

•For the 2018 fiscal year, $36,721,430.52 was levied in property taxes for all districts in the county.

Of that amount, $36,653,493.21, or 99.81 percent, was collected by the county’s Tax Department.

•Commissioners cancelled their Aug. 12 regular meeting.


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