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Washington County considers new salary structure

November 29, 2007|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

A committee created to review Washington County's salary structure recommended Tuesday that the county's merit-based raise system be abandoned in favor of yearly step increases.

Most employees would receive annual 3.5 percent pay raises plus cost-of-living adjustments under the proposal, which was presented Tuesday to the County Commissioners.

Washington County Director of Special Projects Gary W. Rohrer, who served as the committee's chairman, said the new structure would save the county money by fixing inequities in the current salary system.

"The employee review process has lost credibility. Excellence has become the standard rating," Rohrer said.

Rohrer said the county would save about $11,000 in fiscal year 2009 under the new system.

The commissioners had mixed reactions to the proposal.

Commissioners President John F. Barr said he uses merit raises at his company, Ellsworth Electric, but favors the committee's proposal for the county.

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"In a situation in which salaries are routinely made public, the merit system creates its own set of problems," Barr said.

Commissioner James F. Kercheval said he had some concerns about the committee's recommendations and said he believes strongly in performance-based pay.

The county currently uses a 22-grade salary system with a range of salaries for each grade, with raises based on performance. For example, a grade-11 buiding inspector can earn $34,982 to $55,971.

While the merit-based system worked when it was introduced in the late-1990s, Rohrer said it has resulted in salary differences between employees of the same grade that have more to do with the supervisor giving the review than the employee's performance.

Rohrer said the proposed system would still offer opportunities for performance-based rewards but said they should be in the form of yearly bonuses or other benefits.

"We don't want to destroy pay for performance, but we do want to make merits a one-time thing," Rohrer said.

Under the proposed system, employees could be denied step increases for a period of time if their performance is deemed unsatisfactory.

The commissioners will review the recommendations before voting on them during their Dec. 18 meeting.

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