Commissioners defend compensation plan

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The Moffat County compensation plan is a necessary, fair and efficient improvement, according to county officials.

The compensation plan, enacted Jan. 1, is a wage-scale plan that is constructed to bring county wages into balance with market demands, and implements a pay-for-performance system for salary and positional advancement.

Some county employees and department heads have criticized the plan and the data it is based upon, in some instances claiming the final plan was skewed when the county revamped the wage system proposed by Slavin Management Consultants the firm that had initially collected the salary data from area governments and business.

Others have complained that the new compensation plan, by removing longevity and seniority bonuses, won't allow county employees to be adequately compensated.

But the Moffat County Commissioners and Moffat County Human Resources Director Tom Skelding defend the plan, and the data, as a needed and equitable enhancement of the county wage system. They also defend the choice to use the information gathered by Slavin to create one comprehensive compensation plan.

"The data itself is sound, but when we applied the wage scales created by Slavin to the county, the plans didn't work," Skelding said. "In some instances, a skilled labor job was rated lower than an unskilled labor job. Another example was an administrative job that was placed $6,000 higher than the data indicated.

The main problem, according to Skelding, was Slavin's application of a point system to the plan a system that filtered the data through a scale of rankings based upon education, experience, the size of the budget managed and the number of employees supervised.

"The problem with a point system is that somebody, somewhere, made up the rankings. On the surface it sounds fair, but it moves a plan away from reality of the market," he said. "The assigned values in general tend to favor administrative positions that require an education while diminishing labor positions. We wanted to base the plan on the market data."

Another reason the county didn't accept Slavin's compensation proposal was that it created four separate wage scales Law Enforcement, General Workforce, Management, and Labor/Trade.

The wage rankings in each of these four wage scales were separate and incompatible. A 27 salary ranking in the Law Enforcement scale was a different salary from a 27 salary ranking in the General Workforce scale, and this system was unnecessarily confusing and contradictory, so Skelding created one wage scale for the entire county with the data from Slavin and input from county officials.

"I worked with every department head and elected official to create their department's part of the plan. I deferred a lot to the department heads and elected officials, since they were more familiar with their departments and the county, and I was new to the county at the time.

"When each of them walked out of my office, they were pretty pleased with how things came together. It was not until the completed plan was released that some felt they had not been treated fairly."

The lack of uniformity in wage increases was an also issue some wage rankings were separated by $2,000, while others were separated by only $400, with no discernible logic that dictated the scales.

"The proposal from Slavin was unmanageable. There were pieces that didn't make sense," said Moffat County Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos.

"From our department heads and elected officials we had a lot of appeals which Slavin was not responding to."

The county paid $36,000 for the work Slavin had done, and did not pay the last $12,000 of the contract. The incomplete work, inconsistencies within the wage scales when compared to the data, and work called for in the contract that was no longer needed warranted the change in price, Raftopoulos said.

"Basically, it came down to that they did the work they could, but there were some issues that we felt were unresolved," she said. "The data is valid and good information, and was not altered or changed. The plan was created from that data. We got our money's worth with the data they collected.

"That's why with consultants it's best to make payments as the work is done. You can watch the materials produced they may say 'we've done all the work you asked for' but we may not agree."

Robert Slavin, owner of Slavin Management Consultants, said that as a policy the company does not respond to the media, referring all questions back to the customer.

The Commissioners knew when this process was initiated in 2000 that not everyone would be happy, and the creation of a compensation plan would be a complicated and controversial process.

"We expected difficulties," Raftopoulos said. "It's easy to see why there's animosity [because of the final plan], but that's why it was done subjectively with market data. The information shows what a position is paid by the market. A considerable majority of our employees moved upward.

"We knew that our managerial positions were far behind the market, and that those changes would be an issue.

"In past interviews, the salary ranges that were discussed far exceeded what we were offering," she said. "We had to correct those at some point the professional layer is an important piece to running efficiently. Quality employees are needed, and that costs money. The data shows us what the market is paying."

Raftopoulos said that any data gathered by department heads, elected officials and employees would be accepted and added to the information already gathered, and that the appeals filed by the Social Services employees should be decided on by the end of January.

According to Skelding, the data is being handled like any other public document in that a person can fill out an Open Records form, view the data, and select what they want copied. The first 25 pages of county documents requested each year is free, with each additional page costing $1.

Anyone interested in viewing and copying the compensation plan data can contact Moffat County Deputy Clerk Cindy Shanahan in the courthouse.

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