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Salary study rejected for now


May 16, 2001|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

The county Board of Supervisors rejected spending $150,000 on another salary study.

But the rejection might only be temporary, as county staff was directed to return with other options to such a large expense.

The supervisors did not formally act on the issue but said regardless of what a salary study might say, there is no money for employee pay raises.

Supervisor Joe Maruca suggested the county hire an employee to do the study or have each department do its own.

"It's not rocket science to do a salary study," Maruca said, adding he will not vote to spend the money on the study. "If it doesn't get done no one is going to die."


The issue was brought to the board by Human Resources Department Director Nellie Lerma, who with other senior county staff, said the study is more than just a look at salaries. She said the money would also go to explore the viability and implementation, as appropriate, of what's known as Total Quality Management concepts, practices, systems and structures; to make fund transfers from subvented funds from certain departments to the general fund to cover the expense of the study; and to extend a contract with Ewing and Co. to perform the study.

Other county staff members supporting the study were Jim Semmes, county director of Social Services, and Dan DeVoy, assistant county director of Human Resources.

Semmes said the study is needed because the county must recruit and retain qualified staff.

County Executive Officer Ann Capela said she sees the issues as internal equity, external equity and market forces.

Maruca responded by asking how the study would result in money for raises.

No one who supported the issue answered.

Meanwhile, Supervisor Wally Leimgruber said county department heads already suggest organizational and salary changes without a study to refer to.

"If it's not broke, why fix it?" he said.

Capela said she would like to see a comparison of what the study would cost by retaining Ewing, and by performing the study in-house, with the information to be made available in the next week or so.

No one objected.

Supervisor Gary Wyatt said the level and quality of county service is an issue discussed by the community at large. He also said staff retention problems are common with government agencies throughout the state and are not unique to Imperial County.

"I wish we had (Imperial County Office of Education Superintendent) John Anderson's budget," Wyatt said in response to references that the ICOE is able to pay a former county employee $13,000 more than the county could.

Wyatt also said he likes the idea of a study but agrees the money available is limited. He said the only issue is the cost of the study, and to that end he would like to hear other options.

Supervisor Hank Kuiper said $150,000 is a lot of money, and that he, too, would like to hear other proposals.

Supervisors Chairman Tony Tirado was the lone voice in full support of the issue.

He said the study is needed in light of the shift to CEO from CAO, and that the study could result in better pay equity for county employees.

Lerma said the salary study would explore and implement alternative organizational structures/designs to support and enhance the delivery and quality of county services; to validate and make appropriate changes to the classification of existing positions; to ensure that internal equity is maintained between positions; to explore the viability of alternative compensation concepts such as pay for performance and pay for knowledge, among others; review and make appropriate changes to the county's compensation policy and review the relevant labor market and benchmarks.

The first Ewing classification and compensation study was approved by the Board of Supervisors in 1990 as a way of establishing how much county employees might be paid. As part of the study, the county would compare salaries paid by 12 similar agencies in the state and as a goal pay county employees 95 percent of the average of those agencies. It took years for the county to obtain the money to adhere to the study, and it was never fully implemented.

The original study cost $89,500 plus $2,500 in county staff overtime.

Staff Writer Rudy Yniguez can be reached at 337-3440.

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