days after being presented with a salary study showing that 38% of the
county workforce was below the “recommended minimum salary rate,” the
Dare County Commissioners unanimously approved a plan to raise county
worker pay that will cost nearly $3.7 million over a two-year span.
Those raises will start with the pay period running from Feb. 12
to 25, with the first paychecks including the increase to be
distributed on March 3.
Board Chairman Bob Woodard, who acknowledged that improving the pay for
county workers was “way past due," said after the vote that, "Today
this board took a great step forward in supporting our staff. It costs
us, but it's the right thing to do.”
The action to adopt the salary plan was taken at a Jan. 27 special
board retreat. On Jan. 17, at a regular meeting of the board, John
Anzivino, senior vice president of the consulting firm Springsted Inc.,
told the commissioners that “the county’s salary levels are lower than
the average salary rates paid in comparable regional organizations.”
Anzivino presented four recommendations for addressing the matter that
ranged in cost from nearly $860,000 to the $3.7 million two-year option
that was selected by the commissioners.
In addressing the matter at the retreat, Woodard said, "This is
probably the most important issue facing us this budget cycle.” County
Manager Bobby Outten added that the county's department heads will make
the pay raise their "top priority" in budget planning
Outten stated that the board's goals were to get its employees "to the
base salary for whatever the market demand was for each job," and to
solve the "compression problem" in which long-time county employees are
paid less than "entry level" new hires for comparable jobs.
Reviewing the Springsted study, Outten said all four options addressed
moving underpaid workers to the "base level salary." He added, however,
that only two of those options also addressed salary compression by
adding amounts to the base salary for years of service in order to "try
to stretch those employees out over the twenty or twenty-five year life
of the grade or career."
He added that only the option the board ended up adopting truly "solves
the compression problem." Rather than just applying "an arbitrary
percentage," Outten explained, this option takes "our staff and
disperses it out over time. At ten years you get to the mid-range. At
twenty five years you get to the maximum range."
"I've been pretty adamant about making sure the study included the
compression," Woodard said, "because, if we implement this and don't
include the compression, we're back in the same situation...and we lose
good people. So I'm pretty adamant about option four, and doing this on
a two-year basis."
Outten noted that a line item is already in place in the budget
providing $750,000 "for salaries and fringes for the start of
implementation of an in-process salary study," with additional funding
available in the construction and demolition (landfill), sanitation and
Reviewing cost-saving alternatives to option four, Outten explained
that Option 4.1 would delay reaching the maximum range until 30 years,
while saving a negligible amount of money (just over $87,000).
Option 4.2, which would delay reaching the mid-range until 12 years and
the maximum range until 30 years, would save just over $475,000. Both
of these alternatives, Outten emphasized, would delay reaching the
maximum pay range until "at or about the time that you're going to
New Commissioner Rob Ross asked if delaying the maximum to 30 years was
supported by Springsted data and analysis of pay in comparable
communities. "Did the representative entities of the market set achieve
max at thirty years," Ross asked, "or was there a preponderance of
achievement of max at twenty-five years?"
Outten said the "ideal" plan would achieve mid-range at eight years and maximum at 25.
Noting that the affected employees will receive their first raise in
their first pay check in March and a second raise in July, after the
next budget cycle starts, Woodard added, "I know the employees will be