Salary hikes approved

Published 9:22 am Thursday, November 15, 2018

WINTON – Hiring good employees is one thing; keeping them happily employed is something that all employers lose sleep over at night.

In an effort to retain those they hired and have invested the time and effort to train, Hertford County local government is making changes to entry-level employees. That change is directed at new staff hired to fill positions as Detention Officers at the county jail, E-911 Dispatchers, and Basic level EMTs.

County Manager Loria Williams said the change – an increase in the starting salaries (from a Grade 9 to a Grade 10) for the aforementioned employees – was due to what she termed as “excessive turnover.”

“We’re experiencing the inability to attract and retain certain critical 24/7 positions; some departments are at a 50 percent vacancy rate at times,” Williams told the county commissioners at their regularly scheduled meeting last week.

Williams proposed increasing the starting salary from $26,083 to $27,386 annually.

“These are vital positions to the operation of our county,” noted Keri Askew, Hertford County’s Human Resources/Risk Management Director. “We’re asking you to increase the starting salary for those positions from a Grade 9 to a Grade 10.”

Askew added that since January of this year, nine full-time and two part-time Detention Officers have resigned. Meanwhile, three full-time and seven part-time EMTs have left; as well as losing seven full-time and eight part-time Dispatchers.

“We need to be more competitive (with other counties) in hiring and retaining these employees,” Askew stated.

If approved, Askew said changing those entry-level salaries will prompt the need to also make a pay change for tenured employees. She termed it as “compression” – a case where the newly hired employees at Grade 10 will be close in salary as those hired over a span of one year and more.

That calls for an adjustment for tenured employees ranging from 2 percent to 7.5 percent. The percentage assigned is based on years of tenure in that position.

“When we bump the minimum up, that causes compression for those employees who have been here for a while compared to the new employees just hired with an increase in the starting salary,” Askew explained. “The percentage increase helps alleviate that compression.”

A final recommendation called for establishing a policy that increases the base salary by $1,000 annually for those positions where certifications are a condition of their employment. Askew said that increase will be awarded upon the completion of the required certification.

Currently, Hertford County local government awards its employees who are required to pass and maintain certain certifications a $500 bump in salary.

The total cost to make these changes is a shade over $37,000.

“We’re experiencing turnover in these public safety jobs due to salary competition from other counties,” Williams remarked. “My aim is not to have anyone else leave their jobs, especially those we’ve assisted in gaining their specialized training that leads to certification.

“We believe by increasing the entry-level salaries, making the salary adjustments for our tenured employees, and increasing the certification bonus from $500 to $1,000 will put us on the same playing field with the other counties who are seeking these same type of employees,” Williams added. “We’re trying to be more competitive.”

When asked about the tenure adjustments, Williams said those annual salaries will be increased 2 percent for employees who have worked for the county (in the aforementioned areas of Public Safety) for one-to-four years; 5 percent for five years; and 7.5 percent for those with over five years of employment.

She further explained the reason behind increasing the certification bonus from $500 to $1,000.

“Be reminded that these additions to their annual salaries are only for employees that are required to have certain certifications as a condition of their employment,” Williams said. “We want to keep them because, one, they are highly skilled; and, two, because we made an investment in them by paying for their training – books and travel, and the like – and we don’t want to lose that investment. If they gain certification and then leave us for a similar job in another county, then they can take that certification with them; meaning we’ve lost another good employee and lost our investment.”

Williams added another good reason to approve the new measures.

“We’re short-staffed now, meaning some of our staff are working longer hours. Up until a certain number of hours, we can offer comp time off, but once those hours reach another level then we must pay overtime, and that costs us money,” she stressed.

The commissioners, in a pair of 5-0 votes, approved the salary increase for entry-level Detention Officers, E-911 Dispatchers, and basic level EMTs, along with the tenure adjustments. They tabled the certification bump in salary until a new policy is written and presented to them for approval.

The entry-level salary increases and the tenure adjustments become effective Jan. 1.

Williams said the projected $37,144.93 to cover those costs will come from appropriated fund balance if it cannot be absorbed within the county’s Public Safety departmental budget.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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