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Mike Kanin is the Publisher of the Austin Monitor. As such, he doesn't report on much--aside from the workings of the Monitor--any more. In his previous life as a freelance journalist, Kanin has written for the Washington City Paper, the Washington Post's Express, the Boston Herald, Boston's Weekly Dig, the Austin Chronicle, and the Texas Observer.
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Travis County ready to move ahead with salary adjustments
The Travis County Commissioners Court has agreed to adjust a wide selection of county employees’ salaries to bring them in line with the results of a market salary survey completed by its Human Resources Department. All told, the move will cost the county roughly $7.5 million.
Commissioners pulled the trigger on the move despite a number of concerns from department heads over the conclusions reached by county staff. Most of the worry came in the form of disagreement over reclassifications – changes that result in a switch of official title – of positions.
As part of his motion County Judge Sam Biscoe instructed staff to return to court with a list of resolved and unresolved problems that resulted from classification disputes on March 27. Despite the lingering issues, Travis County Compensation Manager Todd Osburn declared the adjustments that resulted from the salary survey a success. “When you’ve got a project like this one where there are 3,600 (job) slots, you’re not going to get complete agreement on every single slot,” Osburn told In Fact Daily. “I think we’re down in the neighborhood of probably about 15 to 20 slots (in dispute). We’re easily below one percent at this point.”
The survey compared county salaries and positions to a set of peers in order to determine whether Travis County’s employees are paid as well as the competition. An anecdote from Tax Assessor-Collector Revenue Manager Renea Deckard seemed to sum up the situation. She told the court that, after hiring and training, a tax supervisor left the county for employment in the business world. “In about 14 months that person quickly found another job that paid double the salary that we were paying,” she said.
The court aims to have the changes in place by mid-April. If all goes according to plan, Travis County employees set for a salary increase would see the bump in their paychecks beginning April 30. County Auditor Susan Spataro, whose department must handle a portion of the adjustments, told the court that her team would be ready for the switch.
Last week, Spataro expressed concerns over the timing of the raises, which would coincide with a complicated switch in her office’s software system. “When we talked about implementing (the system), 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,” she said at the time (See In Fact Daily, March 12, 2012).
On Tuesday, Spataro signed-off on the April dates, but without a caveat. In her testimony she noted that, in order to make the change work, the county would perform pay upgrades outside of its normal protocols. As a result, errors could make their way into the upgrade with more ease.
Commissioners also seem ready to extend the salary surveys to departments that were not included in this past effort. These include Spataro’s office, the Travis County purchasing office, and county peace officers.
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