Lee officials discuss compensation study draft

LEESBURG -- The Lee County Commission's Personnel Committee got its first look at a mostly completed draft of the county's compensation study during a special called meeting Monday.

Phillip Robertson with The Mercer Group, which is conducting the study, gave Personnel Committee members Rick Muggridge and Betty Johnson -- as well as fellow commissioners Bill Williams and Ed Duffy and several county employees -- an overview of the study that will soon be used to determine employee salaries in the county.

"There were some things we heard today that we were thrilled to hear," Muggridge, the committee's chairman, said after the meeting. "We were very concerned going in that we might be grossly underpaying our employees, but because of the cost-of-living raises we've given the last three years we were in the 50th percentile of the market.

"Really, that's where we want to be. We don't want to be too high or too low."

Robertson said The Mercer Group uses from eight to 11 factors -- he used 10 in the Lee study -- to classify the various positions in the county and set up a basis of comparison to 10 other organizations in the immediate region. The organizations he used included the city or county governments in Albany, Americus, Cordele, Crisp County, Dougherty County, Leesburg, Perry, Sumter County, Thomas County and Tift County.

"We wanted to base the comparison to places where your employees could continue to live where they currently live and still work for these other organizations," Robertson said. "I've never seen a fairer way (to make comparisons) than using our Factor Evaluation System to classify positions based on the work performed.

"This has always worked very well for The Mercer Group."

Among the factors used by Robertson to compile data for the study are knowledge required, supervision exercised, complexity, scope and effect, physical demands and work environment.

Robertson said he gathered the "average minimums" and "average maximums" of each position and compared it to Lee County's maximum and minimum salaries to determine a pay range for the county.

"Let's say I got in touch with the other organizations and found eight that had building inspectors," the management consultant said. "I took the average minimum salary and average maximum salary of those eight employees and then, if you will, took the averages of those averages to provide a comparison.

"That allows us to come up with a uniformity in our salary ranges. I'm a big believer in uniformity."

Robertson said he expects to bring one more draft to the Personnel Committee before applying study findings to actual employees.

"One of the good things I found here is that no one 'red-lined' in this study; no one is making above the maximum pay grade for their position," he said. "The county's minimums on average are 4.73 below the master market average minimum, and its maximums are 3.66 percent above the master market average maximums.

"Ideally, we'll take the feedback we get from the commission and put together another draft for them to consider in the next 30 days. I like to make sure all their concerns are addressed before presenting a final draft."

Muggridge said he's pleased with the work Robertson has completed.

"I'm very comfortable with the methodology," he said. "Now I'm ready to look under the hood at all the nuts and bolts. We'll soon have the information in place to adequately compensate our employees. And to reach our goal of equitable treatment, we needed a qualified third party like The Mercer Group to look at our employee pay scale.

"Commissioner Johnson has worked tirelessly on completing this study for the last four years, and we owe her thanks for her leadership. This is the kind of document and code that, if we apply it correctly, could serve this county for the next 25 years."