By Mark Jurkowitz | Outer Banks Voice on October 28, 2022
After receiving a salary study presentation showing that Dare County employees are being paid about 18% less than market rate salaries for public sector jobs, the Dare County Commissioners will consider a plan to try and address that imbalance at their upcoming Nov. 7 meeting.
The presentation at the October 27 special board meeting was delivered by Rob Williamson, Project Manager for Evergreen Solutions, the firm hired by the back in March to conduct the first compensation and classification study for Dare County since 2016.
While no vote was taken at the meeting, after recommendations by Williamson and County Manager Bobby Outten, some board members indicated they were likely to support a “Hybrid Parity” plan that would adjust the pay of an estimated 555 employees, accounting for an additional $3.8 million in salaries and benefits, with an average increase of about $6,800 dollars for the impacted employees.
Under that plan, everybody making less than the minimum market salary, would be brought up to that market rate. For those currently under market rate, two other factors would play a role in the salary adjustment – the length of time an employee has been in their current position and the number of overall years the employee has worked for the county.
Aside from deciding whether to approve such a plan, the commissioners would also decide how quickly to implement it.
In his remarks at the meeting, Outten made clear that the goal of the study was to attract and retain talented employees in the Dare County workforce. It was about a year ago, he noted, that “we began having these discussions about the problems we were having in our labor market…The purpose is to hire and retain the people that we have.”
Williamson told the commissioners that “the uniqueness of this area means your market is a challenge. The labor market is very competitive right now. We want you to get to a pay plan that is [competitive].”
In his power point presentation to the board, Williamson noted that during employee meetings with Evergreen, county workers “generally felt that their starting play is lower than neighboring municipalities.” In addition, employees voiced concern about “wage compression,” something that occurs “when new employees are brought in at a higher rate than tenured, more experienced employees.” The report also noted that “several employees mentioned the lack of affordable housing as having a significant impact on the ability to recruit talent.”
The average county employee has worked for the county for just more than nine years, Williamson reported, adding that the ‘Hybrid Parity’ plan “is a game changer for the county. It immediately eliminates the [wage] compression you have, and it immediately makes you market competitive.”
In addition to approving a salary adjustment plan, William advised the county to also approve Cost-of-Living-Adjustments (COLA) as needed in order “not to fall too far behind” market rate salaries going forward.