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South Georgia Local Government

The Unscrupulous Timeline of Effingham County’s Salary Study

A lack of public presentation and discussion surrounds the implementation of Effingham County’s Salary Study.

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Official meeting minutes from the Effingham County Board of Commissioners show the county sought bids for a salary study before commissioners voted to contract with Evergreen Solutions, LLC. But commissioners voted to approve the budget – with the salary study recommendations – sight unseen.

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In fact, the county began partially implementing the salary study recommendations before the study was even complete.

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TIMELINE FOR EFFINGHAM COUNTY’S SALARY STUDY

September 2020 – County issues RFP for consulting and study on classification and compensation with a due date of October 28, 2020

November 2020 County Commissioners approve contract with Evergreen Solutions for pay Classification & Compensation study based on listed objectives. (A Motion was made by Burdette, second by Floyd – Commissioner Keifer not present)

Evergreen submitted the low 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.
View all of the bids
Read Evergreen Solutions, LLC contract

January 2021 – Commissioners discuss Salary Study at 2-day retreat (Jan 22-23). No records exist outside of a mention that the study’s expected completion date was March 2021.

May 2021 – When Commissioners hold a ‘1st reading’ of the FY 2022 budget, the salary study is unavailable. County Manager Tim Callanan provided the following information, as denoted in meeting minutes:

  • FY 2022 Budget (begins July 1) denotes no COLA increase, but implementation of the salary study findings.
  • General Fund  “Personnel increase (including place holder for the Salary Survey) is $3,444,308’ which includes 12 new positions for the county in FY 2022
  • Special Funds “Personnel increase (including place holder for the Salary Survey) is $1,004,259’ which includes 4 new positions
  • “Salary Study results. There is currently a place holder of $664,500 for the implementation of the Salary Study. We hope to have the final report and actuals in the budget by the 2nd reading,” it reads.

June 15, 2021 budget notes show the ‘placeholder’ removed and the salary study implemented. This discussion, which reflected the ‘changes since first reading,’ counted as the second reading of the budget and a subsequent vote by Commissioners followed. Commissioners adopt the FY 2022 budget, with the pay study recommendations implemented, without any public review or discussion of the pay study. The total dollar amount of adjusted salaries is not denoted anywhere.

August 11, 2021 – Report is complete and published by Evergreen Solutions, LLC

To date, the report and findings have not been published by the county – on the Effingham County website or in an open meeting. Commissioners did not vote on the adoption of the study, in whole or in part, either. As a result, Commissioners did not publicly disclose whether or not they agreed with the findings of the $18,500 report. 

Cover sheet of Effingham County pay study report showing date of completion and presentation.

More interestingly, while the notes from the 2nd reading of the FY 2022 budget read that the county received the salary compensation study, the official report – obtained through an Open Records Request – says Evergreen completed the report in August 2021 – two months after Commissioners adopted the budget with the supposed recommendations.

Publishing the Compensation Study

Obtaining the compensation study itself from the Board of Commissioners officer proved difficult.
Article: Effingham County Stalling on Releasing Compensation Study

Findings from Effingham County’s Salary Study

Evergreen’s report stated that the county’s overall desire was to “be at a minimum, competitive with the labor market.” In conducting the study, the company analyzed the compensation and classification of the county’s 261 employees and 151 employees at the Sheriff’s Office.

  • The County’s pay plan featured 25 pay grades, most of which had a spread of 45%
    • With a few exceptions; best practice is to establish pay ranges between 50-70%
  • The Sheriff’s Office pay plan featured 23 pay grades with range spread o 52%.
    • There was a 2% step increase throughout the pay ranges

COUNTY EMPLOYEES

  • 5.7% of employees (a total of 15) showed compensation below their minimum pay range
  • 21.5% of employees (a total of 56) showed compensation at the minimum
  • 1.9% of employees were at the maximum for their pay range
  • 1.9% of employees were above the maximum

SHERIFF’S OFFICE EMPLOYEES

  • 2% of employees (a total of 3) showed compensation below their minimum pay range
  • 27.2% of employees (a total of 41) showed compensation at the minimum
  • 1.3% of employees were at the maximum
  • 1.3% of employees were above the maximum

The percentages for these two groups do not total 100% because the analysis excluded any employee that falls ‘between $0.01 above the minimum and $0.01 below the maximum.

An employee salary at the midpoint of the salary range is believed to be “fully proficient in their classification,” thus requiring “minimal supervision to complete their job duties while performing satisfactorily.” Additionally, the grade midpoint is commonly considered to be the salary an individual could reasonably expect for similar work in the market.

In Effingham County:

  • Compensation of 232 (88.9%) employees was below their pay range midpoint and 29 (11.1 percent) was above.
  • 130 (86.1%) Sheriff’s Office employees reported compensation below their pay range midpoint and 21 (13.9%) showed compensation above.
  • The report showed a combined 87.9% of employees clustered below their respective pay range midpoints.
    • According to the report, “This may suggest that salaries have not progressed as expected, though the distribution of salaries may be acceptable given the County’s compensation philosophy.”

Additionally, the report divided county employees into quartiles to analyze compensation and whether or not pay compression exists. (Pay compression is when newer employees with less tenure and experience earn a higher rate of pay than those with more experience and tenure)

  • 67.0% of employee salaries fell into the first quartile of their respective range,
  • 21.8% fell into the second quartile,
  • 6.1% fell into the third
  • quartile, and
  • 5.0% fell into the fourth quartile.

The report did not include the analysis of pay compression in the Sheriff’s Office because, according to the report, “the Sheriff’s Office pay plan did not lend itself to be divided into equal quartiles.”

Classifications & Comparisons

Positions with the Most Recruitment & Retention Issues

  • 911 Communications Officers
  • Building Inspectors
  • Correctional Officers
  • Desktop Technicians
  • Dispatchers for the Sheriff’s Office
  • EMTs
  • Engineers
  • Firefighters
  • Zoning Administrator

Compared to Other Entities

Evergreen compared Effingham compensation 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 salaries were 11.9% lower than comparative markets.
  • Midpoint salaries were 12.8% lower than the average of the comparative markets.
  • Maximum salary points were 14.2% lower than the average of the comparative market.s
    • The market maximum is significant as it represents the upper limit salary that an organization might provide to retain and/or reward experienced and high performing employees.

The complete pay study is available at the bottom of the article.

Recommendations

Evergreen made the following recommendations on August 11, 2021:

  1. Revise the titles of some classifications to better reflect job duties.
  2. Update job descriptions on a regular basis and review job descriptions annually for accuracy.
  3. PHASE 1: Increase the County’s pay ranges
    • 8% for county employees to close the gap with the market
      • adjustments recommended for 150 County employees with a total approximate annualized (salary only) cost of $446,112
    • 6% for the Sheriff’s Office’s to close the gap with the market
      • for 131 Sheriff’s Office employees with a total approximate annualized (salary only) cost of $316,278.
    • slot all classifications into the plans based on external and internal equity;
  4. PHASE 2: Move employees salaries closer to the midpoint of the proposed pay grade based on a combination of time in classification, years of tenure with the county, and an employee’s salary Compa-ratio.
    • Employees with more than 1 year and less than 3 in a classification move closer to the midpoint of the proposed pay grade range
    • Those with 3-7 years in a classification move even closer
    • Employees with 7+ years in a classification move the closest to the range midpoint.
    • Adjustment % increments are included to give larger adjustments (in percentages) to those with salaries furthest from the midpoint and to provide greater adjustments to those employees with more time in a classification. Tenure was considered.
    • This occurs in fiscal year after implementation of the salary changes
      • 245 County employees adjusted =a total annualized cost of $392,865
      • 128 Sheriff’s Office employees with an approximate total annualized cost of $249,169
  5. 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 pay grade assignments.
    • While the Sheriff’s Office needs more than a dozen deputies, the position isn’t on the ‘hard to fill list’
  6. Conduct a comprehensive classification and compensation study every 3-5 years, subject to budget constraints and market conditions
  7. Review/Revise existing pay practice guidelines for determining salaries of new hires, progressing employees, and for determining pay increases for employees who have promoted to a different classification

Because the report was not discussed in conjunction with the budget, the degree to which the pay study was implemented remains unclear.

Other Documents Related to Effingham County’s Salary Study

Position Classification Plan
Pay Plan
Compensation Plan

https://www.thegeorgiavirtue.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Final-Class-and-Comp-and-Analysis-for-Effingham-1.pdf

Jessica Szilagyi
Written By

Jessica Szilagyi is Publisher of The Georgia Virtue. She focuses primarily on state and local politics as well as issues in law enforcement. She has a background in Political Science with a focus in local government and has a Master of Public Administration from the University of Georgia. Jessica is a "Like It Or Not" contributor for Fox5 in Atlanta, a commentator on the 'Let Me Tell You Why You're Wrong Podcast,' and she has two blogs of her own: The Perspicacious Conservative and "Hair Blowers to Lawn Mowers." Sign up for her weekly newsletter: http://eepurl.com/gzYAZT

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