MANSFIELD -- The first phase of a planned comprehensive wage study for some Richland County employees is complete, a project that began more than two years ago and was slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
County commissioners on Thursday unanimously approved the report from Clemans-Nelson and Associates from Columbus, a company that specializes in labor relations and human resource management.
This first phase dealt strictly with the 10 departments and about 60 non-union employees that report directly to the board of commissioners -- Building Codes, Child Support Enforcement Agency, Dayspring, Dog Warden's Office, Emergency Management Agency, Human Resources, Job & Family Services, Maintenance, Wastewater Treatment and the commissioners' office staff.
"The good news is we are pretty competitive (in terms of overall wages)," Commissioner Tony Vero said. "We are a little low, roughly, in some things they looked at and some of those are going to change."
Clemans-Nelson looked at the various positions within each department and assigned points based on factors such as experience, education, amount of supervision exercised, personal contact, consequence of errors, independence of work and others.
It also compared the pay for various positions to what counties of comparable size are paying for similar work.
Commissioners said it would likely cost the county about $58,000 to bring up the pay for 16 employees whose current wages are below the minimum on the new pay scale.
"It's not a substantial amount, but it's also not just a few hundred dollars," Vero said. "It not inconsequential."
One example cited by commissioners were kennel attendants in the dog warden's office where the starting pay is now $10 per hour. The minimum on the new wage scale is $13.
"We have some people who are really low," Vero said. "Fast-food restaurants are paying $15 per hour now. You don't have to involved in human resources to know it's hard to hire people at $10 an hour right now.
"To a certain extent, (the study) told us what we knew, but it helps us explain our position to the public and to other elected officials and departments," Vero said.
Commissioner Cliff Mears said the study's results are timely, given the current employment market.
"Some of the raises proposed are certainly not large, but it (also) gets us in a competitive environment in terms of retaining our employees. Turnover is expensive," Mears said.
Commissioners said they didn't have a timeframe in mind for implementation of the overall wage scale and the increases required to meet new minimums.
"In a perfect world ... one year," Vero said. "But we don't live in a perfect world. We will get this out to our direct reports by the end of this week or early next week and have some conversations with our individual liaisons.
"This (scale) will be a part of the 2022 budgeting process," he said.
Commissioners said the next step will be to expand the wage scale study to include more county offices that have expressed interest, including the clerk of courts, domestic relations court and the prosecutor's office.
No employee will see wages reduced as a result of the study, though it does establish maximum pay in each position.
"That's not what the (study) recommends and that's not what we told employees we would be doing," Vero said.
Vero said once an employee reaches the maximum on a job scale that future merit increases could come in lump sum bonuses, rather than percentage hikes.