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Study shows top Travis County managers underpaid

Tuesday, February 1, 2011 by Michael Kanin

Travis County’s human resources department is in the middle of a market study designed to find out how well the county’s roughly 4,500 employees are paid in comparison to their Texas peers, with completion expected by late spring.


The early findings could be disheartening. According to a portion of the study that looked at the salaries five of Travis’ executive managers, those individuals are “without question … behind market.”


By just how much varies from position to position. According to back-up materials provided to the court, the Executive Managers of Transportation and Natural Resources and the Planning and Budget office lag their colleagues by as many as two relative pay grades. The remaining three department heads – for Justice and Public Safety, Emergency Services, and Health and Human Services departments – are behind by one.

County Judge Sam Biscoe told In Fact Daily the court would need to spend roughly $100,000 annually to bring county executives up to their market worth. According to Pct. 3 Commissioner Karen Huber, the executives’ salary upgrades would be offset by reallocations of other funds.


Biscoe noted that “no matter what the differential is, you can phase it in.” Still, he added that much would depend on budget actions taken by the Legislature.


However, Huber suggested that if the executive level salaries were not addressed soon, at least one of the county’s managers could leave. “We are at risk of that,” she said.


She declined to say which manager she meant. According to figures published in the Texas Tribune, Health and Human Services Executive Manager Sherri Fleming makes just under $116,000. The market survey suggests that her income should be, on average, nearly $157,000.


That gap would represent that largest of those addressed by the survey.


The county’s Human Resources Department derived its figures from comparisons with Bexar, Dallas, Harris, and Tarrant counties. They also looked at similar roles in the cities of Austin, Houston, Ft. Worth, San Antonio, and Round Rock.


County officials typically survey the salaries of a third of Travis’ employees every year. However, no such work has been done since 2007. Because of that, the court authorized staff to take a county-wide look at pay.


The results of the 2007 survey also included an examination of executive manager salaries. According to the report, “at the time, the data suggested that the market average for all Executive Managers would have been higher than … the highest grade on the

Classified Pay Scale.”


Staff then recommended that the county keep managers’ salaries as-is. That court agreed.


The court was set to consider an item that would have allowed for the increase at today’s meeting. Biscoe told In Fact Daily that he would prefer to wait to take action until the market salary survey is completed for the entire county. Huber and Pct. 2 Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt, however, appeared to be ready to act this week.

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