The Unscrupulous Timeline of the Effingham County Salary Study • The Virtue of Georgia
A lack of public presentation and discussion surrounds the implementation of the Effingham County Salary Study.
Official minutes from the Effingham County Board of Commissioners meeting show the county solicited bids for a salary study before the commissioners voted for a contract with Evergreen Solutions, LLC. But the commissioners voted to approve the budget – with the recommendations of the salary study – in sight.
In fact, the county began partially implementing the recommendations of the salary study even before the study was completed.
EFFINGHAM COUNTY SALARY STUDY TIMETABLE
September 2020 – County issues Request for Proposals for Classification and Compensation Consultation and Study with a due date of October 28, 2020
November 2020 – County Commissioners approve contract with Evergreen Solutions for salary classification and compensation study based on listed objectives. (Motion moved by Burdette, seconded by Floyd – Commissioner Keifer not present)
Evergreen submitted the lowest bid with a total contract price of $18,500. The county budgeted $20,000 and Evergreen was the only company to bid below the budgeted amount.
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Read the Evergreen Solutions, LLC Agreement
January 2021 – The commissioners discuss the salary study during a 2-day retreat (January 22-23). No records exist other than a statement that the planned completion date for the study was March 2021.
May 2021 – When the commissioners do a “first reading” of the budget for the financial year 2022, the study on salaries is not available. County Executive Tim Callanan provided the following information, as noted in the meeting minutes:
- The budget for fiscal year 2022 (begins July 1) does not denote any increase in COLA, but the implementation of the results of the salary study.
- General Fund “Staff increase (including salary survey placeholder) is $3,444,308”, which includes 12 new positions for the county in fiscal year 2022
- Special Funds “The increase in staff (including the space reserved for the salary survey) is $1,004,259”, which includes 4 new positions
- “Salary Survey Results. There is currently a reserved area of $664,500 for the implementation of the Salary Study. We hope to have the final report and actual numbers in the budget by 2nd reading,” it read.
June 15, 2021 the budget notes show that the “placeholder” has been removed and that the salary study has been implemented. This discussion, which reflected “changes since first reading”, counted as the second reading of the budget and a subsequent vote by commissioners followed. The Commissioners adopt the budget for the financial year 2022, with the recommendations of the salary study implemented, without public scrutiny or discussion of the compensation study. The total dollar amount of adjusted salaries is not shown anywhere.
August 11, 2021 – The report is comprehensive and published by Evergreen Solutions, LLC
To date, the report and findings have not been released by the county – on the Effingham County website or in a public meeting. Nor did the commissioners vote on adopting the study, in whole or in part. As a result, the commissioners have not publicly disclosed whether or not they agree with the findings of the $18,500 report.
More interestingly, while the Fiscal Year 2022 Budget 2nd Reading notes indicated that the county had received the salary compensation study, the official report – obtained via an open record request – indicates that Evergreen has completed the report in August 2021 – two months after the adoption of the budget by the Commissioners with the so-called recommendations.
Publication of the remuneration study
Obtaining the compensation study itself from the Officer of the Board of Commissioners proved difficult.
Article: Effingham County Blocks Release of Compensation Study
Effingham County Salary Study Results
Evergreen’s report stated that the county’s overall desire was “to be at a minimum competitive with the job market.” During the study, the company analyzed the compensation and classification of 261 county employees and 151 employees of the sheriff’s office.
- The county’s compensation plan had 25 pay grades, most of which had a 45% variance.
- With some exceptions; best practice is to set compensation ranges between 50-70%
- The Sheriff’s Office compensation plan had 23 pay levels with a 52% variance.
- There was a 2% increment in all pay scales
- 5.7% of employees (a total of 15) reported compensation below their minimum wage range
- 21.5% of employees (a total of 56) reported compensation at minimum
- 1.9% of employees were at the maximum of their salary scale
- 1.9% of employees were above the maximum
SHERIFF’S OFFICE EMPLOYEES
- 2% of employees (a total of 3) showed compensation below their minimum wage range
- 27.2% of employees (a total of 41) reported compensation at minimum
- 1.3% of employees were at most
- 1.3% of employees were above the maximum
The percentages for these two groups do not add up to 100% because the analysis excluded any employee who falls between $0.01 above the minimum and $0.01 below the maximum..
An employee in the middle of the pay scale is considered “fully competent in their classification”, thus requiring “minimal supervision to perform their duties while performing satisfactorily”. Additionally, the midpoint of the rank is generally considered to be the salary that a person can reasonably expect for similar work in the market.
In Effingham County:
- The compensation of 232 (88.9%) employees was below their median pay scale and 29 (11.1 percent) were above.
- 130 (86.1%) Sheriff’s Office employees reported compensation below their pay scale middle and 21 (13.9%) showed compensation above.
- The report showed a combined total of 87.9% of employees grouped below the midpoints of their respective salary ranges.
- According to the report, “This may suggest that wages have not progressed as expected, although the distribution of wages may be acceptable given the county’s compensation philosophy.”
Additionally, the report divided county employees into quartiles to analyze compensation and determine whether or not there is a wage squeeze. (Wage compression occurs when new employees with less seniority and experience earn a higher rate of pay than those with more experience and seniority)
- 67.0% of employee salaries were in the first quartile of their respective range,
- 21.8% are in the second quartile,
- 6.1% fell in the third
- quartile, and
- 5.0% are in the fourth quartile.
The report did not include analysis of salary compression in the Sheriff’s Office because, according to the report, “the Sheriff’s Office compensation plan did not lend itself to being divided into equal quartiles.”
Classifications and comparisons
Positions with the most recruitment and retention problems
- 911 Communications Agents
- Building inspectors
- Correctional officers
- office technicians
- Dispatchers for the sheriff’s office
- Zoning Administrator
Compared to other entities
Evergreen compared Effingham’s pay and classifications to Bryan County, Bulloch County, Camden County, Catoosa County, Chatham County, Gordon County, Liberty County, Screven County, Spalding County, Troup County, Walker County, Rincon, Springfield, Pooler , Garden City and Savannah in Georgia. And in South Carolina: Beaufort County, Colleton County, Hampton County and Jasper County.
- Effingham’s minimum wages were 11.9% lower than in comparator markets.
- Median wages were 12.8% lower than the comparator market average.
- Maximum salary points were 14.2% lower than the comparative market average.
- The market maximum is important because it represents the upper limit salary that an organization could provide to retain and/or reward experienced and high performing employees.
The full compensation study is available at the bottom of the article.
Evergreen made the following recommendations on August 11, 2021:
- Revise the titles of certain classifications to better reflect the duties of the position.
- Update job descriptions regularly and review them annually for accuracy.
- PHASE 1: Increase county pay scales
- 8% for county employees to fill the gap with the market
- recommended adjustments for 150 county employees with an approximate annualized total cost (salary only) of $446,112
- 6% for the sheriff’s office to fill the gap with the market
- for 131 Sheriff’s Office employees with an approximate annualized total cost (salary only) of $316,278.
- insert all classifications into plans based on external and internal equity;
- 8% for county employees to fill the gap with the market
- PHASE 2: Bring employee salaries closer to the midpoint of the proposed pay range based on a combination of time spent in classification, years of seniority in the county, and a salary comparison ratio of employees.
- Employees with more than 1 year and less than 3 years in a classification approach the midpoint of the proposed salary range
- Those who are 3 to 7 years old in a classification come even closer
- Employees with 7+ years in a classification come closest to the midpoint of the range.
- Adjustment percentage increments are included to give larger adjustments (in percentages) to those whose salaries are furthest from the midpoint and to provide larger adjustments to employees with more time in a classification. Permanence was considered.
- This happens in the fiscal year after the salary changes are implemented
- 245 adjusted county employees = total annualized cost of $392,865
- 128 Sheriff’s Office employees with an approximate total annual cost of $249,169
- Conduct small-scale salary surveys, as needed, to assess the market competitiveness of hard-to-fill classifications or classifications with retention issues and make changes to salary level assignments.
- While the sheriff’s office needs more than a dozen deputies, the position is not on the ‘hard to fill list’
- Conduct a comprehensive classification and compensation study every 3-5 years, subject to budget constraints and market conditions
- Review/revise existing salary practice guidelines to determine salaries for new hires, advancing employees and to determine salary increases for employees who have been promoted to another classification
As the report was not discussed at the same time as the budget, the extent to which the compensation study has been implemented remains unclear.
Other documents related to the Effingham County Salary Study
Job classification plan