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Commissioners approve pay boost for county employees

Slightly more than half of all county employees could see an increase in pay by April.

Rowan County Commissioners on Monday approved an increase that affects 51 percent of the county’s 770 employees. The pay boost will add about $1.7 million to the county’s budget.

Commissioners approved the increase after reviewing a compensation study conducted by Springstead Inc. Among other things, the study examined whether county employees were underpaid in comparison to surrounding counties and if salary compression meant new employee pay was inching close to those with experience.

Commissioners Chairman Greg Edds said the pay increase for 51 percent of employees was a way “of honoring those folks that work so hard for our community.” Edds then made a motion to approve the increase. It was quickly seconded by Commissioner Judy Klusman and passed unanimously.

As part of the increase, some employees will see larger bumps than others. The average increase, however, will be about 6.11 percent, according to County Manager Aaron Church. Employees who are closer to their position’s recommended minimum will receive little or no increase in pay. Employees at or above the minimum also wouldn’t receive and increase.

The pay increase and compensation plan are aimed at reducing salary compression — where new employees make similar salaries to experienced ones — and reducing employee turnover, according to Springstead Senior Vice President John Anzivino. Rowan County, however, isn’t experiencing a “catastrophic” amount of turnover, according to Anzivino.

Finance Director Leslie Heidrick said county employees slated to see an increase in pay should see a boost by the end of March. Employees who have 11 years of experience will also receive a small percentage increase each year, Heidrick said.

Implementing the pay increase won’t have a significant effect on the county’s finances, according to Church and Heidrick. Last year, Rowan County set aside more than $800,000 to implement results of the compensation plan. In the upcoming fiscal year, it’s estimated county government will need an additional $920,476.

Before findings and recommendations from the compensation study were approved, County Commissioner Craig Pierce said increasing pay is only one part of steps commissioners want to take to improve workplace quality. Pierce said moving county departments out of cramped spaces would also help with the workplace environment. The West End Plaza is a potential destination for many cramped county departments.

Government agencies that were surveyed as part of Rowan’s compensation study include: Concord, Hickory, Kannapolis, Lincolnton, Lexington, Salisbury, Catawba County, Cabarrus County Davidson County, Davie County, Iredell County, Lincoln County, Randolph County, Robeson County and Stanly County.

In other business from Monday’s meeting:

• County Commissioners voted to alter construction plans for an emergency medical services building in Rockwell to reduce construction costs.

The item was on commissioners’ consent agenda.

Construction estimates for the Rockwell EMS station recently came in significantly over budget. County officials set aside $500,000 for the project, but the lowest bid for the project was $768,000 from Salisbury-based Vertex Construction Co. By changing the exterior of the building from brick to metal, county officials hope to reduce costs.

• Commissioners approved a donation of $10,000 to the Rowan County United Way.

The United Way specifically requested the donation to help laid-off Freighliner workers.

About 1,400 employees of the Cleveland plant have lost their jobs in 2016. The United Way has provided coordinated various assistance for the unemployed workers.

• Commissioners voted to give the county manager authorization to select an architect not to exceed $25,000 to design conceptual monuments or signs for entry ways into Rowan County.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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