One of the major items the Commissioners Court are currently discussing is a taxation policy for the county. This was discussed in detail a couple of weeks ago. Another item the court is now evaluating is that of a pay system for county employees.

Currently the pay system in place, and which the county has used for many years (to the best of anyone’s knowledge), is called the “Step Plan Pay System.” This system is widely used in counties throughout the state as well as in many commercial firms and industry. In this system, a series of “steps” is established for each employee position in the organization. This series will have a starting salary for the position, and then successive “steps” will be identified with an increasing salary amount identified in each “step”.

In the county system, ten “steps” are identified. As an example, an employee could be classified as a technician, step 1. This would define the person’s starting salary and where they were in the “step” system. When they received a wage increase, they would then go to “step 2”. The next raise would put them at “step 3”, etc.

The county system classifies each job and places the person filling that job in the correct salary classification. The starting salary is determined by job evaluation and then established as “step 1” with each of the remaining nine “steps” in the salary range increasing the salary by two percent. Thus the total pay increase from starting salary to highest “step” available is 20 percent. Raises are given only one “step” at a time. Thus for a person entering county employment with a raise given every year, it would take 10 years for the person to receive 20 percent more than their starting salary and then they would be capped with no additional raises possible.

There are advantages of continuing with the established “Step Plan” the county is currently using. First, it is easy to administer. When a raise is given, each person moves to the next “step” automatically. There are no discussions about merit and value. Second, it is easily understood by the employees. To determine a person’s raise, all they need do is go to the “Step Plan” to see where they are in the range and then add 2 percent to their existing salary. Third, the plan is less subjective as raises are given based upon one’s position in the “Step Plan.” Finally, less communication is required between the supervisor and the employee as raises are automatic.

The disadvantages are obvious: 1) the supervisor has no flexibility or discretion to reward higher performers, 2) the plan fosters a seniority and entitlement mentality, 3) there is a “guarantee” of a pay raise as all employees get the same raise, and 4) the system can cause stagnation in the work force as there are only 10 “steps” representing a 20 percent raise from the lowest to the highest “step” in the plan.

An alternative to this system is being discussed. This system, “Pay for Performance” is also widely used in other counties in the state as well as being extensively used in industry.

As in the “Step Plan”, each employee position is evaluated and a salary range is established for each job. An example for a technician could be $31,000-$43,000. This range is then divided into quartiles, 1 through 4. In this example, the first quartile would be $31,000-$34,000, second would be $34001-$37,000, etc. With this structure, each employee’s salary increase would then depend on where they were in the salary range and what their individual level of performance was as evaluated by their supervisor.

For example, if an employee had a salary that placed them in the first quartile of their salary range, their raise percentage, as determined by the county, could be larger than if they were in the fourth quartile. Likewise, the better their performance, as evaluated by their supervisor, the higher their percentage of raise. So if the person is in the first quartile and is an outstanding performer, their raise might be seven percent; if their performance was below standard, their raise could be one percent. If they are in the fourth quartile with the same performance, their raise could be three percent and zero percent.

One of the main advantages of this system of pay is that it encourages and rewards the better performers. No longer is the salary increase a set amount; the better the performance, the higher the raise. Along these same lines, this system increases motivation of employees as there is a monetary pay-out for better work. Poor performers are not rewarded  and better performers can receive higher percentage raises. This system is not based upon seniority; it is based upon performance.

There are also disadvantages to this system. Since the county has not used the system before, it will require a considerable amount of manager/supervisor training to properly implement and run the system. For example, if the county decides that the average raise that can be afforded across all employees is three percent, then each manager is allocated three percent of the total amount spent on all of their employees. If there are 10 employees with an average salary of $30,000, then three percent of the total amount spent on salaries, ($30,000 x10 people=$300,000) or $9,000 must be divided among the 10 employees. How they evaluate their employees in terms of the percentage raise given to each employee must be such so that no more than the $9,000 which has been allocated their function is given in raises.

Email addresses and phone numbers for Court members are:

County Judge Jerry Hogan: jerryhogan@sbcglobal.net or 214-394-4033.

Commissioner Precinct 1 Cliff Sevier: csevier@rockwallcountytexas.com or 972-204-6010.

Commissioner Precinct 2 Lorie Grinnan: lgrinnan@rockwallcountytexas.com or 972-204-6020.

Commissioner Precinct 3 Dennis Bailey: dbailey@rockwallcountytexas.com or 972-204-6030.

Commissioner Precinct 4 David Magness: dmagness@rockwallcountytexas.com or 972-204-6040.

Jerry Hogan is a retired US Army Special Forces Lieutenant Colonel who is currently the County Judge. He can be reached at the email and number above.

 

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