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Travis County to proceed with market survey

Thursday, February 5, 2009 by Jacob Cottingham

Travis County Commissioners unanimously voted Tuesday to proceed with the latest cycle of the county employee salary study. They also approved a compensation committee to study the pay structures and policies of other counties in relation to Travis County.


The committee will recommend “short and long term policy decisions for rank and file employees.” They will examine pay structure, salary administration and funding priorities for market study recommendations, market salary adjustments, performance-based pay and cost of living adjustments.


Currently, the county has a rolling three-year plan in which the salaries of one-third of the employees are surveyed and reviewed each year. Every three years the cycle is completed and the county commissioners decide whether or not to adjust salaries. 


Debate at the court Tuesday focused on whether or not this year’s survey should continue. The county completed about 60 percent of the survey, but then the economy crashed. In late January, the city of Austin cancelled $900,000 in raises for 1,100 employees who would have benefited from the city’s own market study. Austin has also instituted a hiring freeze in general fund departments in an attempt to trim this year’s budget.


County Attorney David Escamilla explained why it might not make sense to do the market survey this year.  “For one thing, that’s going to be more work for us [those on the committee],” he said. “And with the economy how it is, are we doing a disservice to our employees by going out and finding out how much they should really be paid and then not being able to pay them because we may not have the money?”


He noted that “we deal with this every year,” because the court is rarely able to fund all the requested pay increases. Still, he argued in favor of doing the report, saying that it at least demonstrated the county was aware of what other counties are paying employees. Natural Resources Director Joe Gieselman told the commissioners that he also favored the study, because people in his department “know what the market is.”


Pct. 1 Commissioner Ron Davis said he “didn’t want to put any false hope out there for any employee.” He was concerned that employees would feel slighted if the survey was conducted and money for pay increases wasn’t available. After making sure that an explicit reference to this conundrum was inserted into the motion, commissioners voted unanimously in favor of creating the committee and going forward with the survey.

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