Pay study completed

Published 6:04 pm Tuesday, September 17, 2019

AHOSKIE – Last spring the Ahoskie Town Council approved a two percent pay increase to town employees. Whether other adjustments would be forthcoming depended in part on a Management and Personnel Services (MAPS) Group study conducted this past summer.

Town Manager Kerry McDuffie told Council back in April it had been three years since there had been a pay increase for employees. The two percent raise went into effect April 13, but any other salary adjustments might hinge on the outcome of the MAPS study, once completed.

That study is now in, and an overview was presented at the Sept. 10 Council meeting. However, no action was taken, and they voted to table any action pending a review by Council of the findings on whether to adopt the pay classification plan as presented.

Eleanor Green, an associate with MAPS, a team of consultants specializing in human resource management and development, provided the report on the current study (a prior one had not been conducted since 2014).

The MAPS Group provides a personnel policy review/update, a job description review/update and a salary study review of the town’s employees.

These studies, recommended by the North Carolina League of Municipalities, suggest possible changes in personnel classification, as well as pay plan recommendations. It ensures compliance with current laws and standards with everything from OSHA regulations to human resources practices.

“I was here this spring doing training for the staff and interviews to get staff to talk about their jobs, and I must commend you on a great staff,” Green said. “They’re absolutely committed to their jobs, and the passion they have for their jobs comes through; they’re a great group.

Green explained the reasons for job classification as well as having a pay plan, and reasons for keeping them up to date.

“That’s because it helps you recruit employees,” she explained. “More importantly, you need to keep the salaries competitive so that you can retain employees.”

Green recommended that MAPS studies take place every five to seven years.

“Sometimes within that window jobs change, and there can be a reorganization of duties,” she acknowledged. “Sometimes there are also new services taken on by the town and you need to see how those impact the job.”

As an example, Green said police salaries are on the rise all across North Carolina, and there are fewer police officer candidates than there are positions open, and that is causing that market to move up.

Green said the process begins with employees giving MAPS surveyors job descriptions followed by interviews.

“From there, we go out into the job market, get salary data to see how similar jobs in other towns compare to the jobs here in Ahoskie,” she noted. “From that came recommendations I reviewed with the Town Manager and am presenting now to you.”

Green said it was a three-month process and that several different factors come into play when making a comparison with other, similar, municipalities. Factors in the job classification study include: difficulty, variety, and complexity of work, contact, education and experience, work environment, the physical effort, and supervision.

No MAPS evaluations include a single individual’s performance and how well they do the job.

“Factors like length of service, qualifications for the job you hold, or how well they do their job is not considered,” she declared.

Salary data, Greene noted, came from a dozen area organizations ranging from towns like Edenton, Plymouth, Tarboro, Murfreesboro, Roanoke Rapids, and Williamston, to counties Bertie, Northampton, and even Hertford. These are all areas where Ahoskie must compete for jobs: towns with populations between 2,500 and 5,000.

Following the analysis, MAPS came out with a recommended salary schedule and position classification plan.

“You can see the grades that the position has under the Fair Standards and Labor Act (FSLA), meaning eligibility for overtime, or an exemption; what the hiring rate would be for that job, probationary period, and maximum salary for the position.”

Green said several area municipalities and counties had raised law enforcement salaries, but not some others.

“You will see in our recommendation that police salaries go up,” she said.

The study also recommended an adjustment for some 31 other town employees due to significant changes in the job duties, change in classification, or change in market conditions.

“Once you have the classification plan with the assigned salary ranges then you can benchmark people to these ranges,” she said. “You should bring employees who’ve completed their probationary period up to the amount of the probation rate and add one percent per year of service from the date they entered into their current position – not their hire date.”

Green said this would prevent salary compression for new employees hired on top of those who had completed probation. If implemented this way, beginning on Oct.1, then the study computed the cost to be no more than $106,881 for the current budget year (roughly 75 percent of the fiscal year ending June 30, 2020), and it would not include the cost of benefits.

McDuffie said implementation was possible because of employee vacancies.

Councilman Charles Reynolds noted two vacancies in the Ahoskie Police Department and questioned how the increase would be affected once these positions are filled.

Ahoskie Police Lt. Jeremy Roberts, appearing for Chief Troy Fitzhugh, who was in court, noted that one new officer was being sworn that very day, while another was being vetted. Otherwise, the department was at full staff, including two officers who have returned from active military duty.

While McDuffie recommended adoption of the classification policy as set forth in the MAPS study, he felt their personnel policy needed further review.

“The best thing for us to do is to table this until we have a workshop,” said Councilman Charles Freeman, as Town Attorney Buddy Jones concurred.

“Let’s recess until people have had a time to look at and read this thoroughly,” Jones said.

The Council then voted to meet again before their October meeting.

Meanwhile, Green said the town’s personnel policy is in compliance with federal and state laws.

“We found in the (town’s) old personnel policy manual that there are a lot of procedural things, and we recommend that a personnel policy be kept as policy statements,” Green said. “Council should certainly set the policy, but the operational pieces are where the (Town) Manager has discretion over.”

The MAPS study also had some recommendations of adjustments in the accumulation of sick leave as it applies to potential early retirement, and there are some corrections that needed to be made to come into compliance.

“This is the retirement system managed by the State Treasurer’s office,” McDuffie stated. “And, we have to follow their rules.”

Before finishing, Green reminded Council that the MAPS study findings are the same as given to all cities and towns across North Carolina, and they have been reviewed by attorneys and accountants.

“This didn’t just come out of our heads,” she said. “It’s something that’s standard across the state.”