Long past time for action

October 20, 2013

It’s time for Sampson’s commissioners to stop talking and start acting when it comes to resolving an employee compensation problem that has existed far too long.

While we truly believe county leaders want to take proactive steps to reward under-compensated staff and plug the leak of employees leaving Sampson for higher paying — and comparable jobs — in neighboring counties, it appears they cannot reconcile the desire to do something with how best to do it.

A comprehensive classification study seems at the forefront of the latest talks, some of dozens that have been held year after year, budget after budget, with little to no compensation actually seen in employee paychecks because of it.

But we contend that yet another study, which by the way will cost the county precious dollars, does nothing to alleviate the problem, and if done without implementation will only further add to the already low morale among hard-working employees who have felt slighted year after year.

They should feel slighted. Veteran employees who’ve gone through numerous Boards of Commissioners and numerous attempts at pay studies and pay plans have little to show for all the time and effort that has gone into trying to bring about fair compensation. And they, like we, have no reason to believe this study would be any different.

The proof is in the history.

Money has been expended at least twice over the last decade or so to study employee pay, with recommendations made on how best to implement compensation to county staff. Commissioner boards have changed over that same time period, debt has risen and the economic conditions have worsened, all which have factored into slim to no pay increases for employees who’ve waited patiently for well-meaning leaders to put real action behind their efforts.

County manager Ed Causey believes a pay study is necessary to both protect employees and ensure fair compensation. He may be right on the one hand, but he must tread cautiously, understanding that employees are fed up with studies that do no more than take money out of already tight coffers while offering nothing to those waiting, with hands out, for the rewards they have worked so hard to earn.

Commissioners cannot bind any incoming board members to study results that might call for employee pay hikes, and planning without sheer determination to make things work falls flat, as we’ve seen with attempts to set aside money for county facility repairs.

We know commissioners have good intentions, but intentions do little if not followed by action.

This problem isn’t too broke to fix, but it’s getting close. Commissioners need to buckle down and make decisions now regarding employee pay. In other words they need to act, not talk.

If a study is necessary, it should be commissioned now with a clear understanding that findings need to be made within a short time frame. And then the recommendations need to be implemented, without delay. A study with no intent to follow its findings will do nothing.

The fix might not be easy and the financial burden painful, but the end result is necessary. And while it may not be the most popular decision commissioners make among some constituents, it is the right one.

Employees deserve far more than they’ve been getting. It’s time commissioners stopped saying they understand that and show they do.