Commissioner Doug Spencer
By 2014, the Auglaize County commissioners plan to have a new salary and wage schedule in place to help guide pay for county employees — including a suggestion to move toward pay increases based on merit and away from across the board raises.
Commissioners met recently with representatives of Clemans & Nelson, a Lima management consulting service, to discuss possibilities for conducting a salary survey of county employees’ jobs in comparison to those in other similar counties. The last time such a survey was done was 2000.
“With technology updates, through attrition, there have definitely been changes in the last 12 years,” Commissioner Doug Spencer said. “Job positions have changed. Some jobs have been created. Job descriptions are out-of-date.”
Spencer said they want to see where Auglaize County positions compare to other counties in an effort to stay current.
Commissioners consulted with Pat Hire and Cat Kounsborn about how to go about a wage and salary survey and what kind of results they could expect to see.
Hire suggested that the best approach would be using the previous survey as a starting point to see how job descriptions have changed.
“We need to see how valid it is,” Hire said, explaining that time could be saved by building off what the county already has rather than starting from scratch.
Decisions will be made about who to compare Auglaize County to — counties of similar populations, general revenue funds and makeup, including a comparable industrial base.
“A lot of counties in the area look the same, but when you delve in deeper they are quite different,” Hire said, sharing that they also already have access to information from the counties with which they work.
The formula used by Clemans & Nelson for the survey is built off one they developed 30 years ago. An incentive for getting other counties to respond — being forwarded a print out of the data obtained when the survey is done.
“We aren’t here to create a new will if we don’t need it, but at the very least, we need to review those that are out-of-date,” Hire said of the desire for an updated wage survey to be reflective of what is happening in the county now.
“It’s not only fair to the public to have something effective in place, but fair to the employees as well,” he said.
For the survey, which is tentatively scheduled to start in March, with results available by September, Hire said employees would fill out job description profiles, which would then be reviewed by supervisors and possibly department heads. The last four pages of the 12-page document would be for supervisor comments as Kounsborn said they have found that employees often either include too many or too few responsibilities when filling out the questionnaires.
Not all departments may be included, and those with bargaining units as well as the Auglaize County Engineer’s Office have already been excluded.
Kounsborn said they can look at as many as 17 different aspects to each position with several different degrees per aspect, which can be customized according to the county’s needs. The aspects take into account the number of people an employee supervises, how much time they spend doing it, and how much time that person is supervised. A point system takes into account education, experience, and responsibility both for financial matters and decision making.
“The more data you get back, the more variables, the better instrument this will be,” Kounsborn said.
By developing a thorough description and value for each position, Hire said, it gives the county the ability to defend against complaints and protect its liability.
Once those descriptions and wage schedules are developed, Hire said they should be reviewed and updated every three to five years.
Auglaize County Commissioner John Bergman also requested that the description include hours worked.
Kounsborn said to expect those who have been with the county for a long time to fall outside the scale and consider ways to handle that, as well as what to do about retire-rehires, which are looked upon poorly by the public.
The benefit of retire-rehires now is the experience, which admittingly in some cases is crucially important, Kounsborn said.
Commissioners also discussed how they would handle annual cost of living wage increases they typically give under a new wage schedule with the team from Clemans & Nelson recommending they do away with such across the board increases and instead base them on performance evaluations.
“Automatically giving increases can lead to complacency and lifts the entire scale up,” Kounsborn said.
She suggested the possibility of giving small across the board increases and then allowing for additional increases for merit, all within a set cap.
“I like the performance thing, but boy it’s tough,” Bergman said.
Kounsborn said there would always be pushback, but if merit increases are linked to performance, there need to be performance evaluations so employees know what they are doing good, what they are doing bad and how to improve.
“As we look at salary line items for budgetary purposes, we need to pre-plan the amount needed,” Spencer said, acknowledging that actual salaries are determined by individual elected officials.
With commissioners controlling funding and elected officials controlling compensation for their employees, Hire said in the end elected officials’ own personal assets could be on the chopping block if they do it incorrectly.
“It’s nice to be nice to people, but at the end of the day when you start reaching their family, they pay attention,” Hire said.