It’s time county commissioners either put up or stopped kidding themselves and everyone else about county employee pay.
With actions taken this week, we are back to the pay study drawing board. Commissioners are divided over whether to fork out some $47,000 to conduct one and the issue has been tabled until March, a delay that we believe will lead to the same inevitable conclusion, one that won’t put more money into deserving employees’ paychecks either.
Everyone seems fixated on the study, but it’s not the study that’s the problem — it’s the non-action we fear would follow such a study.
With most commissioners seemingly against the idea of raising taxes, and with mounting financial issues like courthouse security and great infrastructure needs looming, it hardly seems possible that the board would be able to increase pay no matter what a study would show. So why spend money on such a document when the final outcome isn’t likely to change?
How can that be a moral booster?
We had high hopes that this time around commissioners would find a way to shore up non-competitive salaries among hard-working staff, perhaps halting the revolving door that has seen good employees leave Sampson for neighboring counties and better pay. But it doesn’t appear to be the direction the county is heading.
Yes, many want the study, and yes, there are good reasons for it, but we continue to caution that moving toward yet another pay study without any intentions of following recommendations within it will be detrimental to the morale of the very people commissioners are trying to find a way to reward.
County manager Ed Causey has done everything within his power to push a study forward and find a workable solution commissioners can use to improve stagnant pay for long-time and loyal employees. Almost since his first day on the job, Causey has cited the need for a study and the greater need of implementing a competitive pay classification that compensates employees for the jobs they do, showing them a loyalty that goes beyond mere words.
But, again, a study without action leads to nowhere, or at least nowhere good.
There have been lackluster approaches to salary bumps over the years, including other expensive pay studies that have virtually been ignored with current and past county boards getting heartburn over the financial consequences of doing more than tossing out small raises from time to time. And that has left Sampson as a mere stepping stone to better paying jobs elsewhere, something Causey and his department heads believe is detrimental to the county and its citizens. It’s for those reasons, among others, that the county manager is pushing commissioners to move forward with the study.
We still agree a study is needed, but we remain convinced that a study without action is mere window dressing and does nothing to fix the problems the county has with low morale and the employee revolving door that seems to be widening.
We believe commissioners recognize the problem, and we believe they genuinely want to fix it. We just don’t think they are willing to climb out on the financial limb we think would be necessary to do what is needed and should be done.
Commissioners need to be certain they are ready to open the county’s coffers and implement what a study might recommend doing or they need to stop tabling the matter and simply own up to the fact that they can’t — or won’t — take the needed steps to rectify the compensation issue.