Marion Co. unveils new employee pay plan

A proposed pay plan, based largely on experience and performance could take effect in July, according to information presented at the Feb. 28 meeting of the Marion County Commission.

Tina Spencer, county clerk, who fills in as the human resources officer, said this pay plan is designed for the top performers.

“Your better performers,” she said, “will move up quicker than somebody who just comes to work everyday.”

Included in the commission packet was a spreadsheet showing how the pay plan would work.

Spencer said the spreadsheet had specific job in a specific department, length in that position, date of hire, current pay band, annual hours and other details to help commissioners better understand how it would work.

Spencer said the pay plan is about what you want to get out of this.

“As a board, what do you want to get out of this? We paid for a non-biased person to come and look at everything,” Spencer said.

“(The consulting firm) gave its recommendations, and there are things you could change about it before approving.”

Employees need a structure of some kind—either this pay plan or the current one with tweaks, adding that the current one could work fine. It’s a matter of what the commission wants, she said.

Commissioner Kent Becker said: “I think it’s also trying to be fair to the employees and having something they can understand.”

“You do need to be fair with the employees,” Spencer said.

Cost to taxpayer

Commissioner Randy Dallke talked about the amount of mills that are needed just for payroll.

“Its about 34 mills or $4.625 million, which is almost half (of what the county receives from ad valorem or property taxes),” Dallke said, “and benefits are not included.

“(Using the new pay plan) that amount will go higher.”

Commissioner Dianne Novak asked Spencer if employees could feasibly receive a raise twice a year—a merit raise in July and a cost of living increase in January (at close to 2 percent)?

“If that’s the case, everybody will expect a merit raise in July, which is a big expense, and who is going to get one, and who is not?” Novak asked.

Spencer said the merit raise would be based on evaluation scores—once a year or two small ones twice a year.

“It’s up to you (commissioners) and it’s based on the budget,” Novak said.

“I also have a problem with an employee thinking they are entitled to a raise once or twice a year while sometimes (another employee) goes two or three years without a raise,” she said.

Novak said she was concerned that merit raises would be given from evaluations.

Spencer said: “Typically (using evaluations) is how merit raises are done.”

Dallke said he thinks Novak is saying that it’s noticeable when a supervisor says it has all top of the line employees.

“We have department heads that mark everybody at the top,” he said.

Commission chairman Kent Becker said maybe a new type of evaluation form might be needed.

Dallke said: “The evaluation is the best one I’ve seen, but getting everyone to fairly evaluate employees (is key).”

Spencer said she believes the evaluation is supposed to be a tool to help employees grow by setting goals for them to attain.

“If you have a plan in place and everyone is treated the same, and everybody has the opportunity to get rewarded by working harder than anyone else—that’s a bonus— it’s something to strive for,” she said.

The current way the county evaluates employees is a good tool, Spencer added, but department heads need to be better trained on it because it does have a lot of different grades.

With two possible options to receive pay raises, Becker said, there’s always the option of recognizing we have to watch the budget, and if it’s tight, we freeze increases (at some point).

Other recommendations

Novak said she didn’t agree with some parts of the McGrath proposal, particularly with methodology and comparisons.

“I think we need to take into consideration what other counties are paying, and stay within that range,”: she said.

“Based on the pay plan benchmarks,” Novak said, “what will these comparisons do to our other cities in the county.”

Novak said her recommendation would be to identify people who are way below the pay scale—those overlooked for a long time.

One example is custodians, she said.

“They are well below entry level and need to be bumped up.”

Referring to the spreadsheet Spencer prepared, she said all the positions in white are below the range.

Novak said she thinks the employees at the lowest levels should be given a raise first, and get them up to entry level, and at another time, boost others up.

Becker asked if Novak’s recommendation was to take the very lowest first and then “forget about (the others) for a year?”

Novak said she sees two different sides—make sure employees are paid a fair wage, and secondly get into reading how we are going to implement everything.

“The pay plan has a lot of things we (commissioners) need to consider,” she said.

“In my cost estimate, and just boosting up everybody that is $1, $2 or more off would cost $61,000 next year.”

Conversely, Becker said if the entire plan was put into effect, the cost would be $142,000 for the first year, which doesn’t include increases in future years for stability.

Spencer reminded the commissioners that they should keep in mind that every time they increase wages, it’s an ongoing increase.

“You are already giving pay raises frequently based on the current pay plan,” she said.

Job title changes

Dallke asked Spencer what the proposed job title would be for a part-time secretary moving to a different range.

Spencer said the employee wouldn’t need to have a change in title.

McGrath Consulting’s recommendation (Malayna Maes) would be on job duties and what they are performing, she said.

“That is her opinion,” Dallke said, “and everyone is entitled to their opinion.”

The consulting group interviewed employees and department heads, he said, and the commission wasn’t listening to any of those meetings.

Spencer said: “Yes, and I understand that. But it has been reviewed and also the pay plan consultant is probably familiar with those tactics of the (employees).”

Having been through the “pay plan process” at least two times before, Dallke said he wasn’t happy with the last one.

Plan study

The company involved in the “nuts and bolts” of the proposed plan was McGrath Human Resources Group, based in Wonder Lake, Ill.

As part of its review, the McGrath Group defined the pay philosophy for county employees.

It stated: “The county is in the business to provide services to the citizens, businesses and visitors of the community. It does that through hiring qualified employees…”

Without such people, the report stated, the county would cease to provide adequate roads, parks, public health and safety, and the necessary support services to keep those systems in place.

Malayna Halvorson Maes, senior consultant, said that in order to get employees where they should be on the pay schedule, it could mean a 3 to 4 percent increase until they are up to the regular salary schedule.

“We are being assertive and aggressive in getting employees up to ‘Step 1,’” she said at a meeting in mid-September.

The commissioners paid McGrath Consulting $18,000 to do the study in April 2018.

History

Consulting firms in previous years included the League of Kansas Municipalities, Spencer said, which used to offer a service like this, which the county jumped on.

At that time, there was a committee of employees and department heads that assigned points to positions, she said.

Spencer added that the league implemented an initial pay plan and after that they stopped doing it.

After that, the Austin Peters Group Inc., which cost $34,650, included on-site visits for data collecting, interviews and questions and answers.

As for putting this plan into action, the Austin Peters Group would offer support and training and cost scenarios set up to minimize employer cost.

The quote was based on 86 employees, more or less, but that amount could be adjusted.

Marion County now has 113 full time employees.

The Austin Peters Group was used by the county to put the pay plan in effect, which exists today, Spencer said.

“The group was used again in 2014, and the scope was a limited study of only a few positions to see if the county was where it should be in the market, she said.

“It wasn’t comprehensive, and only a few of the county’s positions were studied. That market study using only a few positions was between $6,000 and $8,000.

The commission, in other business:

◼ reviewed the inventory list compiled by department heads to include trucks, buildings, and other equipment related to the specific employees served.

◼ looked over the advertisement for hiring someone as the county engineer. A final copy of the ad was presented Monday.

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