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News County contracts out to evaluate payroll and job descriptions

A comprehensive job classification and payroll study has been authorized by the Macon County Board of Commissioners and the project is set to begin this month. County administrators contracted out to Springsted Incorporated, a highly touted firm closely associated with the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners, to perform the project.

Springsted specializes in human resources and organizational management best practices, and the firm has been advising local governments and public agencies about the latter topics for more than 25 years. Springsted has completed similar studies for Transylvania, Craven, Brunswick, Cabarrus, Camden, Onslow, and Pender counties, just to name a few. The North Carolina League of Municipalities also highly recommends Springsted, as the firm has undertaken similar projects for their organization in the recent past.

“This is a monumental project and we are excited to have Springsted on board,” said County Human Resources Director Mike Decker. “Springsted has been doing this type of work for years, and I think they will help us gauge where we are in terms of county compensation and job classification. This project will touch every employee in some way, and it should bring a thorough, objective approach to these issues that will enable us to use the updated information in next year’s budget process,” he said.

Commissioners decided to look into a payroll and classification study after the 2011-2012 budget process, during which Sheriff Robbie Holland voiced his displeasure about the salaries of the county sheriff’s deputies.

While every county employee received a three percent salary increase in this year’s budget, sheriff’s deputies were given an additional two percent increase. However, Sheriff Holland maintained that the five percent pay increase for the department’s deputies would do little to make their salaries competitive with nearby law enforcement agencies.

Responding to Sheriff Holland’s criticism, county commissioners decided to undergo a comprehensive study to analyze and evaluate how the county’s compensation compares to neighboring public organizations in the region.

Commissioner Ronnie Beale noted that with continuing budget cuts, it may not seem practical to spend an additional $30,000 at this time, but was confident that the results of the study will prove financially beneficial in the long run. “I think that it’s a great idea,” said Beale. “This is something we have talked about for years, to do a really comprehensive study, to know where we are at with our employees and the services they are providing our citizens.”

Hypothetically, the county could conduct the study inhouse as salaries of public organizations are a matter of public record, but according to Decker, this type of project is too nuanced and enormous for the county to take on independently.

“Our H.R. staff is simply not big enough and it would be very inefficient for us to do this alone. Also, objectivity becomes an issue if you do this in-house,” said Decker, who also serves as Deputy Clerk to the Board of Commissioners. “Springsted is a highly reputable firm who specializes in doing these types of studies, so they will be able to perform professionally and objectively, which is exactly what we need,” he said.

The study will take approximately 110 to 125 days to complete and will cost an estimated $33,150. County leaders hope Springsted will present their findings to the county by mid- January.

County commissioners needed to pass a budget amendment in order to pay for the study, because the county manager’s office did not anticipate the project prior to the passage of the 2011-2012 fiscal year budget last June. Commissioners approved the necessary budget amendment on August 30.

The county will allocate $7,387.50 as an initial payment for the project and will make two additional monthly payments thereafter. A final payment to Springsted will be made in January, and expenses for the project will not be paid until the project is completed and presented to the county.

Springsted is breaking down the project into seven distinct phases, the most important being data collection and needs assessment, along with job evaluation and compensation plans. The firm will train and advise the county’s H.R. staff with the implementation process as well.

Springsted will use three people to conduct the study. John Anzivino, senior vice president of Springsted, will be the primary contact to the county. The firm will meet with county department heads and individual employees throughout the next few months to gather appropriate information about the county’s workforce, with the end result possibly leading to new job descriptions for some of Macon’s employees.

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