Studying a massive comprehensive Position Classification and Compensation Program report and deciding what parts to implement and how to do it, or what parts not to use, will be decided by Barry County Commissioners much like the only way to eat an elephant; one bite at a time.
The commissioners heard a 20-page report, leaving many questions to be answered by the 60-page full report with all the facts and figures to do with county’s employee classification and compensation, or pay, study.
Elliot R. Susseles, senior vice president at Segal Waters gave the results of the first study of compensation and classifications of Barry County employees since 1998 at the committee of the whole meeting Tuesday.
After an hour long presentation and questions from commissioners on the report, the consensus of the commission was to ask Administrator Michael Brown to compare some basic costs of the current pay structure and the new structure from the report and bring it to the next committee of the whole meeting in two weeks.
On total compensation, base pay, employer health benefits, social security participation and retirement plan contributions, Barry County’s market position is 87 percent of the overall market average. Ninety-five to 103 is considered competitive.
Susseles and Brown preferred not to talk specific figures, since much depends on many variables the commission will have to decide, what to implement, how to pay for it, possible union negotiations, consideration of other groups, and factors not known until the full report is studied.
Susseles did say to bring employee compensation up to 100 percent of market position would involve an employee pay hike of 20 percent on average. Brown said that the cost of employee pay increases would be $600,000 a year, without taking into account health insurance, pensions and other benefits. //
Reclassification involved seeing if titles and descriptions of 89 job titles covering 216 employees was accurate and consistent with similar positions: Segal Waters found descriptions of responsibilities were outdated, not reflecting the real nature or level of responsibilities and with inequities between similar positions in the county.
The report includes new classifications, based on equity and requirements of today’s employees.The compensation study measured overall pay and benefits of county employees and compared them with similar positions in the public and private sector in West Michigan:
They found that Barry County’s pay is lagging behind the market average at the minimum, midpoint and long range maximums, Susseles said.
Commissioner Ben Geiger said the study presented by Segal Waters has two of the most through, in-depth studies that the county has ever taken part in and are a road map to promote internal fairness and competitiveness in employee pay. However, the studies are not recommendations, they are tools to make decisions. The board will have to carefully consider employee pay that does not jeopardize the financial health of the county, he said.
Questions from commissioners included if comparing taxable values of property of Barry County with the other units such as richer Kent County and Kentwood was used; Commissioner Jim Dull was told that it was.
Other questions included about comparing Barry County’s average income of $52,186 with the others; how county employee wages compared to other county residents; if it was known how accurate the presented figures from other sources were; why the percentage of time needed for each task in a classification was not included and how the report would handle the funding of increases.
An intangible that can’t be measured was brought up by Commissioner David Jackson; if Barry County residents would want to commute to work in surrounding counties, even with more money but losing time with their families. Dull brought up what Brown said at his last evaluation and raise. He did not take all of the raise offered because the budget was tight, Barry County was his home and he was happy to work and live here.
The study compared Barry County figures with those in Kent, Ionia, Eaton, Calhoun, Kalamazoo, Cass, Montcalm and St. Joseph counties, the cities of Kalamazoo and Kentwood, private companies and three non-profits.