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Travis Commissioners looking at salary adjustments

Monday, March 12, 2012 by Michael Kanin

The implementation of a complex new software system for the office of Travis County Auditor Susan Spataro could affect attempts by Travis County officials to rebalance their employees’ salaries.


The salary adjustments would come on the heels of a Market Salary Survey conducted by county staff. In it, Travis human resources officials discovered that nearly 300 county employees were demonstrably underpaid. All told, corrections to the county’s salary structure – which will include pay increases and a small set of decreases – will cost up to $7.45 million, including benefits. Salary adjustments will not be made for all county employees.


Spataro last week told commissioners about hardships that her staff had experienced while working to implement the new software. “The average hours that our people have put in for the past 100 days has been 60 hours a week,” Spataro told the Court.


She later took the opportunity to scold the county over the process. “There has never been an implementation like this that I’m aware of where there is absolutely no money available for people that are putting in the kind of hours and time that my people are putting in,” she said, noting that she’d prefer to put any extra money “out on a performance basis.”


The auditor’s new system, nicknamed BEFIT, represents a major upgrade for the office. Spataro told court members that she had warned them about the potential conflict between the timing of the construction of her new system and the corrections that would result from the Market Salary Survey. “When we talked about implementing BEFIT, I was really clear (that) there were certain things that we were not going to be able to do this year. We were going to have to hold some things at a level because there just wasn’t the staffing for it. We simply do not have the staffing to look at market (for the salary survey) and that type of thing this year.”


Spataro’s office opted out of the study. However, her office plays a part in the county’s payroll system. As such, they will have to participate in implementing any salary changes turned in by the court. With auditor staff focused on BEFIT, the situation seems as though it will delay the salary corrections.


After the hearing, County Judge Sam Biscoe told In Fact Daily that he was not surprised by Spataro’s statements. “I had heard about it recently, but I had heard about it,” he said. Biscoe called Spataro’s concerns about staff time “understandable.”


Still, the county looks ready to implement a roughly 3.5 percent salary for many of its employees. “More than halfway through the (Market Salary Survey) it appeared the salary base of rank and file would increase by approximately 3.5 percent as the result of…adjustments,” reads a footnote on a chart supplied to the court.


County staff used that figure to estimate the costs of salary increases that may result in conjunction with the study. The county’s purchasing office also opted out of the study. Travis County’s public safety officers were not included.


Commissioner Ron Davis pushed to include the county’s public safety employees. “I think we ought to be all inclusive in all of this,” he said.


The business manager of the local chapter of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, Greg Powell, encouraged court members to approve a portion of the items that were brought forward with the Market Salary Survey. “I don’t understand…why we could not proceed forward…with the approval of the job analysis, the Market Salary Survey—things that are completed,” he said. “The numbers that are attached to that survey are right in the ballpark of what we had discussed and what you had earmarked money for.”


Approval of those items would have brought the salary adjustments closer to reality.


Davis made a motion to approve the items Powell suggested. Biscoe needed another week. “I don’t have any problems with any of the recommendations we’ve heard today, but I’m asking for a one week courtesy,” he said. “I am not ready to act on this yet…there are a whole lot of issues.” He said he would be ready to vote on the matter this week.

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