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Commissioners OK market study of county jobs

Thursday, October 2, 2014 by Mark Richardson

Travis County Commissioners approved a plan by the Human Resources Management Department on Tuesday to conduct a classification and compensation study of the county’s classified jobs in order to analyze whether those positions are market-competitive. Officials say the study will be handled in-house, and the only expense to the county would be any changes in pay scale if it is implemented.

Human resources officials told commissioners that there have been significant changes in the local economy since the economic downturn in 2008-2009, and the study would help officials ensure that Travis County can compete with the private sector in attracting top talent in its departments.

The plan is to perform the study during the 2015 fiscal year for possible implementation in 2016.

“The idea, of course, behind a project like this is to make sure we’re market-competitive with our peers,” said Compensation Manager Todd Osburn. “Our peers have typically included the major counties within Texas and the cities within those jurisdictions, the City of Austin, Williamson County and Round Rock, and a couple of other various local agencies that have a lot of employees that are similar to the ones we employ.”

Osburn said the survey would be performed by the Compensation Division at no cost beyond budgeted staff activities. The only expense would come when and if the commissioners implemented any salary adjustments in the study’s recommendations.

“We did the last one in 2011, and the county implemented it in 2012,” Osburn said. “I believe at that time it was about a $7.3 million implementation. We normally do these studies every four years, and it’s been four years since the last one.”

County Commissioner Ron Davis questioned when human resources officials thought they would have the data on the classified employees and whether they are planning to eventually study the county’s Peace Officer Pay Scale, or POPS, positions.

“What about the POPS situation, especially dealing with the various steps?” Davis asked. “We have a very challenging upcoming fiscal year, with budget issues that are going to come up, and I really want to be ahead of the game instead of behind it.”

Osburn said he hopes to have the market study done by April or May of next year and believes that, with the cooperation of the sheriff’s office and other departments, the POPS data could be available at about the same time.

However, Osburn added, “The issue in the past has been the (law enforcement officers) association hasn’t always agreed with the way we do our market studies. Sometimes the court has adopted their viewpoint and sometimes they have adopted ours. Typically, it’s been my experience that the association tends to come in late in the process, and we don’t have any control over that.”

There was also some concern about putting a process in place that would tie the hands of the next Commissioners Court, as two positions — county judge and the Precinct 2 seat — will have new faces next year. HR staff assured the commissioners that there would be ample opportunity for the new court to adjust the process if it needed to.

Commissioners voted 5-0 to authorize the Human Resources Department to undertake the study, and asked staff to preliminarily meet with the law enforcement associations and report back in six weeks on a possible timeline for a POPS study.

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