County adjusting pay scales
Dorchester County continues to tinker with its pay scale as it deals with the effects of the Lockton pay study and the ensuing employee lawsuit.
The county spent six months reviewing every employee’s file to determine whether each employee is being paid appropriately.
The result is that council agreed Monday to implement “range penetration” for merit increases where needed, but also to freeze salaries of employees who have been determined to be overpaid.
Council also reversed an earlier decision to erase a 2.8 percent increase for anyone hired after Jan. 1.
Public safety argued that doing away with the increase would hurt recruitment and retention efforts.
Administrator Jason Ward said the staff realized during its review that the county was already competitive before the 2.8 percent increase.
The county hired Lockton in 2008 to determine whether its pay was competitive with other jurisdictions. Lockton recommended a two-phase increase in salaries that would have cost $3 million at the time.
The county implemented phase one, at a cost of $1.6 million, but balked at implementing phase two as the economy tanked.
Instead, in 2009 the county used $850,000 to give everyone a 3.4 percent increase, and then in 2012 used $782,000 to give everyone a 2.8 percent increase.
But as those raises were being implemented, Ward was reviewing the basis of the employee lawsuit and realized the Lockton study was flawed from the outset.
Lockton’s recommendations for pay were based on an employee’s total number of years with the county, not the total number of years in a particular position.
Council voted in November to officially ditch the Lockton study.
Ward said the county will hold information sessions to explain the changes to employees. One potential area of confusion is the range penetration increases, he said.
Range penetration increases are based on a percentage of the difference between the maximum and minimum salaries for a position.
For example, someone with three years of service in the same position would be eligible for a 3 percent range penetration increase. If the difference between the minimum and maximum salaries were $10,000, that increase would be $300, or 3 percent of the difference – not 3 percent of the person’s total salary.
In the future, council will need to decide whether to authorize department heads to hire non-managers at levels above the minimum.
The county already hires managers at salaries above the minimum if they have skills or experience that warrants the additional pay.
Monday’s decision doesn’t affect appointed or elected officials.