Polk officials are already hard at work addressing the issues that stemmed from the adoption of the new county pay scale, and while many employees saw increased wages because of the update, the personnel committee heard numerous delegations from workers who took issue with it.
Though not all were present, approximately 13 people were slated to speak during the October 30 meeting. Many of the speakers, such as Sheriff Johnny Moats, were present to speak of the issues affecting their employees, so the number of workers who feel negatively impacted is not necessarily limited to those 13 individuals.
The Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia, an entity that performs regular pay studies across Georgia, was responsible for generating updated job descriptions, placing jobs on a pay scale based on their requirements and market trends, and performing other tasks to ensure Polk’s wages were sufficient enough to compete for employees with neighboring counties.
The study seems to have worked well for new employees, but many long-time county staffers feel that they’re not being compensated as well as they should be. In some cases, new hires are making nearly the same amount as their much more experienced counterparts because of the way time and position are factored into wages.
“Time and position has really hurt a lot of my senior people,” 911 Director Crystal Vincent said. “My supervisors and anybody that’s had more than 10 to 15 years of service, they’re saying that they’re not compensated for their time. They’re saying the compression is too close. I’ve got a new employee. She was just hired, and she’s not even fully certified yet. She was hired in, she got this raise, and she gets the shift differential because she’s working the night shift. Now, she’s making too close to somebody that’s had three or four years.”
Issues like this were the most recurring between each speaker. Delegates from the tax assessors office, the police departments, and the public works department, among others, came to highlight how some of their employees were affected or to ask questions about it.
“The question that I’ve been asked is, (my employee) got a certain amount of credit for her time,” Polk County Public Works Director Michael Gravett started. “But when she quits and I hire someone new, I have the ability to pay that person more money than I can pay (my employee) now? Because she’s only got the credit she’s got, and if somebody comes in with 20 years of experience, I can put them up to the fourth or fifth step on the ladder.”
Simply put, the system allows new hires to receive credit for experience in ways that existing employees sometimes don’t get. County Chairperson Jennifer Hulsey and the others acknowledged this to be a problem, and the group plans to continue working out the issues in future meetings.
However, while it was the most common issue, time and position wasn’t the only topic of the day. Since the updated wages for each position are based off the job descriptions and not the employee working that job, it was reported that some workers were performing extra duties and receiving no additional compensation.
“I’ve got two employees — they’re both supervisors,” Vincent explained. “Both of them are TACS, which is the Terminal Agency Coordinator for our departments. They’re responsible for GCIC. They conduct all the audits so that we can keep the terminals in our department. That was not listed in the job description because it’s not a requirement for the supervisors or the dispatch. But you have to have one for the department. Actually, you need two so that you have a backup. So, it wasn’t listed in that job description and therefore there wasn’t any compensation for it.”
Each of the new job descriptions does include a notice that employees are responsible for any additional tasks they may be assigned, but without increased pay, workers have little incentive to perform extra duties like the TAC workers.
Other times, workers could receive the same amount of pay as an employee that has less responsibility than they do.
Incentive was also one of the topics spoken on during Polk County Police Chief Kenny Dodd’s delegation. He asked about offering increased pay steps to workers that complete training and receive certification in certain subject areas. While the pay increase would only be offered for those who complete important, lengthy training sessions, he felt it would offer a clear incentive for workers to increase their skill set and become even more valuable employees.
It’s a move that the personnel committee seemed interested in, and it will likely be discussed alongside the other issues brought up during the meeting. The delegations were held mostly to give the group an idea of what they needed to solve, so formal changes and fixes are being worked on now.
The study generated two new divisions of pay scale — one for employees who fall under administration, public works and other departments and one for public safety employees like those at the Sheriff’s Office.
Depending on experience, education and more the pay can range from $19,807 annually for a new hire with no experience, to upward of $167,885 for someone with more than 40 years of experience and the highest level of education attainable.
Public Safety’s pay scale falls in a similar range in an attempt to keep the county’s salary scale competitive with municipalities around the region.
So for instance, someone like County Manager Matt Denton’s pay would be in the range of $110,766 if he were a new hire, or that capped out salary of $167,883 if he was in the job for more than 40 years.
Constitutional officers like Moats on the other hand have set salaries and pay fees when they run for office based on a percentage of what they make annually.