On Tuesday, county commissioners again tabled a new set of rules that would govern county workers.
Concern over specifics on how job classifications would be instituted, and their immediate impact on the county budget, prompted commissioners to table discussion of the rules until they could study the estimated financial impact of the change over the next five years.
They plan to discuss the proposed work rules at their March 18 meeting. If the work rules eventually are passed, county employees would receive annual performance evaluations beginning this year.
On Tuesday afternoon, county legal advisor Lucille Turner, of the Carson and Adkins law firm in Tallahassee, presented commissioners with a plan to formally classify county employees and set standardized wage increases based on seniority and performance.
Turner began work on the labor rules in October 2012. The wage classification plan would end across-the-board raises to county employees and require annual employee evaluations by department supervisors.
Turner developed a standardized form to simplify evaluations. Employee assessments would be completed every year on or before Sept. 1 so that information on employee performance would be available to commissioners during annual budget hearings.
“We want to tie (evaluations) directly to pay so we want to have them occur just before potential pay raises come up,” she said. “If someone is not performing up to the standard we need, they will not get a pay raise until performance comes up to a satisfactory level.”
She said all employees should be evaluated around the same time to allow easier comparison of their work habits. Qualities considered during evaluations will include quality of work, job knowledge, productivity, dependability, initiative, enthusiasm, cooperation and teamwork.
Turner said the form is simple and provides only three categories for performance - above average, satisfactory and needs improvement. Supervisors who rate an employee above average or needs improvement must provide an explanation of why the rating is deserved. Turner said this would help avoid overstated grades and provide commissioners and the employee with detailed information about the reasons for the rating.
Both the evaluator and employee must sign the completed evaluation. Employees can add their own comments to an evaluation.
Employees must receive an overall satisfactory rating to receive any pay raise including annual cost of living adjustments. Employees who have received an unsatisfactory rating in two or more areas of an evaluation will have three months in which to raise their rating to satisfactory. If they do so, they will be awarded the raise effective on the date of the successful evaluation. Anyone who does not improve in three months would be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination.
Commissioner Pinki Jackel said at the Feb. 4 meeting the new system would help the county end discretionary pay raises and discourage favoritism. On Tuesday, in reviewing Turner’s plan, she said she had not expected salaries to increase by regular increments under the new system. Turner said that since the raises would be subject to a successful evaluation, they would not be across-the-board raises.
Under the new system, there are nine employee classifications based on seniority. Employees with fewer than six months of satisfactory service are “probationary trainees.”
Grade I employees, those with less than two years on the job, receive the base salary, a minimum of $25,000, and higher depending on the job description. They are eligible for a 5 percent raise when they reach Grade II, after more than two years but fewer than five years of satisfactory performance.
At five years of employment, the individual would become eligible for a one-time 5 percent seniority raise, that could either be given in a lump or phased in at 1 percent over the five years. Commissioner Noah Lockley moved to approve the 1 percent annual raise format, but after Commissioner SmokeyPparish objected, noting that the financial impact was not fully clear, Lockley withdrew his motion.
Turner said adjustments could be made to the base salary annually depending on the county budget and based on the cost of living. The adjustment to the base salary would increase salaries on all levels. The amount of the annual increase would be based on the cost of living increase awarded by the state to county commissioners annually.
“I would like to see something plugged in there so it will be an automatic thing during the budget review. Then we wouldn’t have the hassle of it,” Commissioner Cheryl Sanders said Feb. 4. “Across the board raises is what people get up in arms about.”
Commissioner Noah Lockley said, also at the Feb. 4 meeting, “In my opinion, if we don’t have an automatic clause in there, we’re just wasting time.”
Turner’s proposed rules also dealt with employees switching jobs and pay scale. Under the new rules, if an employee switches to a job with a lower pay rate, their salary will be reduced to the correct level for the new job.
“I like this because if you are making $40,000 in a job with a lot of responsibility and transfer to a job with less responsibility,” Commissioner Smokey Parrish said. “That’s an option that you are going to have to look at that before they make that transfer.”
Inmate supervisors would continue to receive extra compensation.