Back in line

Published 5:55 pm Tuesday, August 20, 2019

WINDSOR – Bertie County Social Services Director Cindy Perry is proud that some of the top Social Service personnel have come through her county and gone on to serve throughout the region and the state.

She’d just like to keep a few more of them at home

That was one of the topics voiced at a work session called by Commission chairman John Trent, where the Commissioners heard from Perry regarding the county coming into salary compliance with some positions within the Social Services Department.

Every year, each county’s Social Services Department statewide has to file a state salary compliance report with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). It was after their 2019-20 budget was approved that Bertie County discovered some of their classifications for about two dozen positions within DSS were out of compliance.

Perry, along with County Finance Department Payroll Technician Samantha Ellis, then worked with state HHS officials and came up with a plan of recommendations to bring the DSS salaries in question into compliance. About 24 employees are impacted.

“We really have no choice,” said County Manager Scott Sauer. “The impact to DSS is about $19,000 with half of that picked up by the state and with their current vacancies we feel certain that they can absorb that.”

The positions that are out of compliance would be brought back in agreement on August 31.

The DSS Director lobbied for more members of her department to be compensated, but for now it seems only those employees whose salaries are out of compliance would be affected.

“I want the Commissioners to know that my staff members are all working, and they all go beyond the call of duty,” Perry said. “Others will feel like they too should be compensated.

Perry revealed she has candidates that have applied for positions with Bertie County DSS, but later withdrew citing salary concerns.

Sauer said bringing the two dozen employees back into compliance was just the first step.

“If there are other considerations at a later date we’ll probably have to deal with a more comprehensive analysis,” Sauer maintained.

Perry said she’s had applicants who’ve applied with Social Services in the county, but many considered the salary scale too low.

“If you look at other counties within our area, they’re paying much more than DSS,” she noted.

Trent suggested some research into DSS salary variances from county-to-county within the region that could be shared with the Board.

It was also suggested that the county’s lack of a Human Resources Director at the time may have been one of the reasons the non-compliance went unnoticed. Also, the Commissioners wanted to make it clear all the employees would be receiving a three percent salary boost with the new budget.

“This has nothing to do with the across the board adjustment,” said Sauer. “These are the classifications where they designate at what grade level the positions are, and there were just a number of them that had to be adjusted outside the existing raise.”

There was a question of whether other departments had similar discrepancies, and were told only the designated DSS workers were not in compliance.

“The next step ought to be adjusting up to the market rate for other counties,” said Commissioner Ron Wesson. “Shouldn’t we be higher across the board?”

“We need to try to get that done,” reasoned Trent.

Commissioner Ernestine Bazemore then made a motion to bring the DSS salaries within compliance and then implement the change. It was seconded by Commissioner Tammy Lee.

“Let’s not push this on the back burner, once we get in compliance,” cautioned Bazemore. “Let’s do this expeditiously in the future. Whenever there’s a catastrophe here – it’s sad – but the first ones we call on are Social Services.”

“Whether it’s the Sheriff’s Department, or anywhere else, other counties are looking for the best people they can find,” said Commissioner Greg Atkins.

“We are the training ground,” Perry stated. “Then, after so many months they get trained and they go to other counties taking their retirement and insurance with them. There’s nothing to hold them here.”