County's goals for plan in question

Employees believe compensation plan will create fiscal equality

By RYAN SHERIDAN

Daily Press writer

Concerns about the Moffat County compensation plan have evoked mixed reactions from current county employees.

The plan has support from within, and was put in place for a variety of reasons, most dealing with disparities that were costing the county money and quality employees, according to Moffat County Administrative Services Director Debra Murray.

According to Moffat County Human Resources Director Tom Skelding, the compensation plan is one that will continually be adjusted. Wage information and adjustments of the pay scale will be done to ensure the county stays current in its salary scales.

"Our plan is pretty much complete, except for a few spots," Skelding said. "But, a plan like this is never 'complete'. We'll always be looking at new information. We want to keep a finger on the flow of information so that we won't get behind like we have been."

The research for the Moffat County's Treasurer's, Assessor's and Clerk's offices is the only active research still to be done. That work should begin next week, Skelding said.

The data collected for the compensation plan showed Moffat County was competitive in most of the wages it offered.

"The compensation plan actually showed that, for the most part, we were paying our employees market salary or above," Murray said. "The people that we were paying below market salary were mainly the part-time employees and the professional employees those requiring a college education."

The trend of under-paying for professional employees was costing the county money, and interfering with the county's ability to attract and retain quality management-level personnel.

"The county had kept the professional employees' wages low mainly because of a philosophy that all full-time employees should be making about the same," Murray said. "It didn't matter on the education, responsibility or skills required for a job. Also, the county seemed to feel that people who did hard labor were more valuable than those who sat at a desk but both are valuable and needed as employees. Consequently, Moffat County had problems hiring and keeping professional employees."

Murray pointed out that hiring qualified employees for management positions would save the county money, because these employees would be looking for ways to increase revenues while reducing expenses and liability.

"Since I have started working for the County I have brought in, with the help of my staff, close to $2 million in grants for county projects," she said. "And it has been such a benefit to have an attorney on staff to help make us bullet proof, to review contracts and to help make sure that we have things in writing to reduce our risk.

"Four years ago, the County did not have an Attorney, C.P.A., Planner or Human Resource Personnel on staff and the county was paying the consequences. Professional management looks for cost-cutting ideas and increased productivity," she said. "They never assume that just because this is the way that we have always done it, that it is correct. There is a cost to competent, skilled staff, but the benefits outweigh the costs."

Another change the plan made was paying part-time and temporary employees the same rates full-time employees receive for the same work.

"For the most part, it didn't matter what the part-time and temporary employees did, if they were part-time or temporary, we paid them $8.00 an hour," Murray said. "What this plan does is treat part-time and temporary employees that same way we treat full-time employees. Both full-time and part-time employees who are doing similar work will make the same per hour.

"Some departments who hire a lot of part-time and temporary workers saw more of an increase than those who didn't. Some of the departments that have a lot of part-time or temporary workers are the Library, Pest Management and Grounds and Building."

The compensation plan affected each department differently. Some departments saw more increases Social Services, County Attorney, Administration, Planning, Museum, Human Resources, Pest Management, Library, Building and Grounds, and Housing. The Road and Bridge Department was one of the departments that did not see significant increases.

"Is not getting a raise due to the fact that you have been overpaid such a bad thing? I would have rather been paid market salary from the beginning instead of getting an increase from the plan," Murray said. "I received an increase as of July 2001 but what about the three years that I was underpaid? I am tired of the people who are angry because they were not underpaid. The data reflects the decisions."

The data that the new wage system is based upon has not been shared with the county employees, and there are no plans to do so which is a serious problem in the eyes of those who don't agree with the plan or part of the plan. According to Skelding, department heads did work with some data, and helped create their departments wage scales, so the creation of the compensation plan was not an arbitrary or uninformed process.

"Some of the data was shared with each department head to create their mid-point information," he said. "We created the plan with input from each department head they were all involved in how the different positions within their department were placed within the salary scale.

"We have no plans to show all the employees the data. Some of the entities surveyed were private industry, and given to us as confidential. Releasing all the data might impact that confidentiality where private industry participated."

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