A disagreement on how to implement the results of a Barry County employee pay and classification study by Segal Waters was discussed Tuesday by County Commissioners and Commission on Aging officials. It brought a lot of opinions, but no solution.
The pay and classification study lists what most county employees would be paid if they were paid at the current market value, when compared to other cities, counties, non-profits and private businesses.
The county negotiated with the Barry County Courthouse employees on the results of the study and, eventually, agreed they would implement the recommendations, phased in over a four year period. The terms of the agreement were extended to cover most other employees and department heads.
The COA board, which is independent of the county, approved both the compensation and classification recommendations from the study in one year starting May 1, instead of over four years as the county planned.
That gave COA Executive Director Tammy Pennington a raise of her $64,117.20 annual salary to $80,641.60 beginning May 1, and an increase on two percent until 2020.
Pennington immediately asked the board to bring her salary from $80,641.60 in the first year down to $69,971.20 and then follow the four year phase-in as the county is doing. The board did as Pennington requested.
However, they implemented the proposed reclassifications and two percent pay increases for other employees, also immediate instead of over four years.
“That was on the chart we were given,” COA board Chair Sandy Kozan said. Either way, the figure would end up being the same, so they decided to leave it the way it is, she said. “We budgeted knowing the increases were coming,” she said. “If we repeal it, we have to tell 30 employees they are not going to get the raises we promised,” she said, adding the COA employees work very hard for older adults in the community.
A commissioner she did not name pressured her by saying if they didn’t repeal the raise, they wouldn’t get approval for a November millage request for a new COA building,she said.
Commissioner Dan Parker said if it was a misunderstanding, miscommunication or something else, “it needs to be rectified, for all county employees…it’s fair, it will get there, just not as quickly.”
After lengthy discussion Tuesday, each Barry County Commissioner agreed its recommendation to the COA board is that they take back the raises and then restore them over the next four years.
"The board asked you why you were so against what we did; we did what you asked us to do,” Kozan said. “The county is the one who told us what to do, so where does that leave us?”
Implementing the recommendations over four years was to smooth the transition to higher salaries, for ease in budgeting and the impact on pension costs to avoid spiking, Administrator Michael Brown said.
Commissioner Ben Geiger said if the COA let the accelerated the pay scale stand, it would affect operations at the COA. “Based on concerns from my colleagues and others, and what I heard here today, I’m afraid this board would not approve a millage request,” he said.
Commissioner Vivian Conner said the COA board thought they were voting the same case as the county. When questions about the raises started, she contacted Brown and got the county four year implementation figures.
"We voted what we were given,” Kozan said. “We are a completely independent board; we chose to do what we thought was right.”
“Keeping the implementation the same, keeps it on an even keel, now we’ve got COA employees getting more than other employees,” said Commissioner Jon Smelker.
Commissioner David Jackson said looking the figures going from four years to one gave him quite a shock and is out of character with the rest of the county...it was a misunderstanding with everyone still getting to the same goal. It’s just a matter of time, he said.
The board put off the vote on approving ballot language for COA millage on the November ballot until July 11, because the COA board is still determining the final size of the new building, either 20,000 or 25,000 square feet, which will affect the final amount of millage they will ask for and thus the millage rate. They plan to have those figures Thursday. The commission has until August to submit the ballot language to the state.