The county paid $38,500 for a salary study in 2018, but didn't fully implement its recommendations.
In 2018, Flagler County paid an independent firm to study the salaries of county staff members relative to the salaries of comparable positions elsewhere to find out if county workers were under- or overpaid.
The study found that a range of Flagler County government positions were underpaid, and suggested steps to bring them up to market rate.
But the plan was never implemented fully, and now commissioners will spend another $48,000 with the same firm for a new salary study. The 2018 study had cost $38,500.
County Human Resources Manager Pamela Wu said at a Dec. 9 County Commission meeting that when she conducts exit interviews with employees, their reasons for leaving tend to be pay-related — either they were unable to meet financial obligations locally with their current pay rate and looked for better options, or they weren’t looking but heard about a better-paying position and decided to apply for it.
“It’s clearly a compensation issue, and that’s whey we are unable to retain our employees,” Wu said.
Commissioner Greg Hansen, after Wu presented the rationale for the new study, said the commission had heard the same arguments two years ago, and agreed to the plan only to find out that it hadn’t been implemented.
“I find that troubling,” he said.
Wu said that the pay plans proposed in the first study had been implemented at a lower rate than had been recommended, and that the process currently underway would have employees at the recommended 2018 rates in 2021, when the market would have moved on.
Michael Misrahi, a senior consultant for Evergreen Solutions, the firm which had conducted the study, said the county was 4% behind the market on average, but that certain blue collar trades were further behind — equipment operators, for example, are being paid 10% below the market rate, he said. If the county doesn’t act, he said, the county could see its 4% market gap grow to 10% or more over the next few years.
County Administrator Jerry Cameron said there was also another shortcoming of the 2018 study: It had only looked at comparable positions in the public sector, not the market as a whole. The county had determined that scope at the time, Cameron said. But the county isn’t just competing with other public sector employers, he said.
“Our biggest competitors are not the government,” he said.
The new study would look at private sector salaries as well.
“Of all that we do, this perhaps is the most important,” Cameron said. “The employees that we hire will outlast all of us.”