Tuesday, Aug 21 2012 - by Robert W. Jean, County Administrator Pro Tem
San Juan County is now implementing the results of a new employee compensation study and some members of the community have raised questions about how and why this is being done.
The County’s policy is to set employee wages based on the rate of pay for similar positions in surrounding counties and comparable San Juan County employers. The last compensation study had been done in 1996-1997. In 2008, at the request of AFSCME Local 1849, the County commissioned a new market study, which was conducted in 2009-2011.
The study included all positions other than law enforcement employees (who are in a separate union) and elected officials (whose salaries are set by the Citizens Salary Commission). Implementation of the study affects 214 regular full and part-time positions.
As expected, some inequalities had developed over the 12 years since the previous study was performed. At the top end, the study found three employees – including two appraisers in the County Assessor’s Office and a program coordinator – were due increases of more than $2 an hour. 19 employees received no increase at all.
The County administration, in cooperation with the union, took steps to minimize the impact on the County’s budget as the study’s findings were implemented. In cases where there were large differences between the current and new pay ranges, employees were moved to the next closest step in the wage scale from their current pay. Most employees received raises ranging from one cent to 99 cents per hour.
To further minimize the impact on the County budget, the implementation of the study included a major, negotiated change to a high deductible health plan and a one-year freeze of salary step increases.
The study itself was done by a human resources consulting firm specializing in compensation studies, selected through an RFP process by the County Administrator and the Union. The firm, HR Answers, used a Job Analysis Questionnaire completed on all county positions and job descriptions, to place positions with similar duties and requirements into the same ranges. Each position’s ranking was based on weighted job factors: accountability; job knowledge; complexity/scope; relationships with others; physical requirements and working conditions; and management/direction of others.
The consultants then benchmarked 74 county positions against equivalent positions within nearby Washington counties. The consultants also contacted 62 San Juan County employers for wage comparisons. Ten employers did provide data: 3 school districts, 1 municipality, 1 excavation firm, 1 insurance agency, 1 bank, 1 care center, and 1 utility company. From all of this data, the consultants developed a new salary structure for County positions that represented the average of market rates for the same jobs in comparator counties. HR Answers worked with the County Council, the union, and administration staff to ensure consistency and equity in the study process.
We believe the results of the compensation study insure fairness in setting pay ranges within the County’s diverse professional and support positions and will ensure the County will be able to recruit and retain the experienced professionals it needs to provide the quality of services its citizens demand.
Robert W. Jean
County Administrator Pro Tem