How do county leaders determine who gets paid what?
That’s a question commissioners have long grappled with. Now, they’re going to seek assistance in determining the answers.
District 3 commissioner Mike Youngblood proposed the establishment of a pay scale committee Monday, saying the county needs to set clear criteria on employee pay. He also suggested four people he wanted to see on the committee: senior center director Kelsey Tyner, human resources manager Tracy Dake, soon-to-retire magistrate judge Harry Rice and EMS director Jason Lewis. Youngblood added that EMS employees work odd hours and that Lewis needs to provide perspective on EMS schedules.
“Jason’s department is kind of different than anyone else’s with hours,” he said.
The board was scheduled to discuss the establishment of a committee again at its Monday, April 7 meeting. (See the April 10 print edition for coverage).
The issue of county employee pay has been an emotional topic for many years in Madison County. There have been frequent rifts related to perceptions of unfairness in pay.
In fact, several years ago, the BOC agreed to have a pay scale study conducted by the Carl Vinson Institute. But the board was not satisfied with the results of that study. And the wage suggestions were never implemented.
This past year, the county commissioners gave a one-time pay increase that amounted to a $900 bonus for full-time employees. That was the first across-the-board pay increase for county employees in several years.
While cost-of-living raises have been abandoned in recent years, a number of county department heads have appeared at the podium in front of the commissioners with requests for “reclassification” of their employees in recent months. They have frequently noted increased duties for a worker or pointed out that an employee is not adequately classified for their current duties.
This was the case once again Monday. Finance director Kathy Clark appeared before commissioners to request that purchasing agent Cheryl Jensrud be reclassified. She noted that Jensrud is not being paid the entry level salary for her position at a “class 16.” She noted that once she became certified for her post, she should have been bumped to a “class 18.” On top of that, Jensrud has taken on additional duties in the finance office and Clark said Jensrud was qualified for a “class 19” salary. These changes would bump her pay from $14.02 to $19.30 an hour.
Commissioner John Pethel suggested that the board postpone any decision on Jensrud’s pay until after the pay scale committee worked on the issue. But Youngblood said a number of reclassifications have been addressed in recent months and he didn’t feel Jensrud’s pay consideration should be delayed due to the committee. He made a motion to approve the reclassification — an increase of $5.28 an hour. The action passed by a 3-2 vote, with Stanley Thomas and Pete Bond voting with Youngblood and Pethel and Jim Escoe voting against the increase. Thomas voted for the increase, but added that he would like Jensrud’s pay to be bumped to a “class 18” to reflect her certification as a purchasing agent. He said the pay committee could determine whether she should get extra pay for her extra duties.
At the close of the meeting, Madison County resident Hoke Strickland approached commissioners during the public statement portion of the meeting, saying that he felt the board should have held off on Jensrud’s pay change until after the committee met. He said the BOC’s action will hurt employee morale.
“If you give her (Jensrud) this raise, then she could get another one later (after the pay study),” said Strickland. “That’s double dipping. That hurts morale. Why couldn’t that wait until after the pay scale (study)? Wouldn’t that have been more fair to other employees?”
Dove noted that Jensrud’s pay increase was not the only one given to an employee in recent months, pointing out that a number of reclassifications have been approved by the board. He said constitutionally elected officers — such as the tax commissioner, clerk of court, probate judge and sheriff — have the power to give raises as they see fit. But county department heads must get board approval for such pay changes. And as constitutional officers have made changes, department heads have approached the BOC for similar deals for their employees.
“I don’t want it to be like this is the only situation where this was done,” Dove said to Strickland.
Youngblood asked Strickland how many employees got a one-time increase this past year. Strickland said he didn’t know.
Youngblood told Strickland to “get your fact together before you come up here.”
Jensrud approached the podium crying and addressed the board. She said she and three other employees — none of whom are still employed with the county — agreed to take a pay cut prior to the pay study in 2006 with the understanding that their pay would be addressed and appropriately categorized after the study. She said that was never done and that she has missed out on $37,000 in wages over the years because of the move. She said 42 county employees have gotten raises since this past August.
“For people to think I’m being greedy is so unjust to me,” she said in tears. “I fought for everyone here. It’s time for me to fight for myself.”
Jensrud added that she doesn’t want to be the source of friction with other employees.
“Don’t tell me I’m going to take down morale,” said Jensrud. “I’m not the only one who has received a raise… I’m sorry I got emotional, but I don’t want to be the cause of any rift between employees. But I can’t stop people from being angry as I have been angry and disappointed too watching other people get what I’ve been waiting for.”
Jensrud told the board that they need to respect the employees and what they do.
“You as a board come to a meeting twice a month; we come here Monday through Friday and we run this place,” said Jensrud. “We are the government. You are the voting body, but we are the ones who push the paychecks. We are the ones who do the permits. Everything in this government is run by these people who come Monday through Friday and those on Saturday and Sunday — those deputies on the road, those EMS people — people like me behind a desk with a computer. It takes all of us. You are a voting entity, but are you out there really running? Do you see what it takes to run this government?
Pethel asked Dove if the board had to listen to Jensrud.
“Do we have to listen to this?” asked Pethel. “We’ve heard it before.”
On Tuesday, an agenda item for the April 7 BOC meeting was added by Pethel: “Discuss reconsideration of pay increase for purchasing agent.”
Display comments as (Linear | Threaded)
The author does not allow comments to this entry