Douglas County considers new approach to pay employeesThe way Douglas County’s almost 300 employees earn their pay could be in for a bit of a makeover.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
The way Douglas County’s almost 300 employees earn their pay could be in for a bit of a makeover.
Douglas County’s Administration Committee agreed with a recommendation from the Compensation Study Steering Committee this week to develop a pay plan that bases wages on performance.
Both panels also agreed the county’s pay plan should reflect average market wages.
Douglas County wages are very close to comparable jobs in the public and private sector, according to a recently completed study by Carlson Dettman Consultants. Only supervisors, professionals and managers lag slightly behind market salaries.
Bringing county pay in line with the market would cost between $100,000 and $150,000 more for the estimated $14.5 million payroll, said Charlie Carlson, of Carlson Dettman.
The firm has spent the last few months gathering information about the jobs county workers perform, their level of pay and comparing that information to several cities and counties in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
When it comes to county employee pay “you nailed it,” Carlson told members of the Administration Committee on Wednesday. He said there were not wide discrepancies over or under the market norm in the pay Douglas County employees earn.
Comparative counties for the study included Ashland, Barron, Bayfield, Burnett, Chippewa, Dunn, Eau Claire, Polk, Price, Rusk, Sawyer, St. Louis and Washburn. Cities included Superior and Duluth.
While county officials wanted to include information from Carlton County, Barb Petkovsek of Carlson Dettman said the Minnesota County did not respond to the consultants inquiries.
“With a sample this size, the inclusion or exclusion of any one county is not going to change the result materially,” Carlson said. “We’re comfortable with this sample size.”
Carlson was seeking direction to finish developing a new pay plan for Douglas County.
Local and state governments alike are developing the plans after limits were placed on collective bargaining rights by Wisconsin Act 10.
Carlson said about 90 percent of the work is complete, and he needed direction to develop a plan that will be presented to the Administration Committee on Sept. 26, and county board in October for consideration.
“This is a pretty extensive study,” Carlson said. While it’s not the largest study in terms of employees, he said what makes it interesting is that county government is complicated.
“You do a lot of different things,” Carlson said. “You’ve got a lot of different departments (and) quite a lot of functions ... most people in the public don’t have an idea of county government functions. They may have had a relationship with the courts or law enforcement or voting or something like that, but they have no comprehensive notion of what a county’s business is all about.
“A good pay plan puts more emphasis on performance management than it has historically,” Carlson said. Evaluations are based upon job documentation.
Every employee was asked to fill out job description questionnaires, which were reviewed by managers, for the study.
Those questionnaires were scored to determine comparable jobs to determine the step scale for groups of employee classifications.
Those employees that have similar education and experience requirements, decision-making, thinking and communication requirements, and work conditions would receive similar pay. However, employees would receive raises based on their performance. Those who exceed expectation in performance could receive merit pay under the plan being developed.
The Administration Committee approved developing a pay plan that brings county wages in line with market studies to remain competitive in hiring, but bases pay increases, in part on performance. While wage increases would follow a step model for time-in-service for average performance. Wages could increase across more than one step for exemplary work.
Supervisor Charles Glazman, a member of the study steering committee, said he likes the plan because it encourages exemplary employees.