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South Whidbey parks pay plan may cap employee raises

South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District commissioners are considering a compensation plan that will put a cap on employee raises.

Doug Coutts, parks director, explained that the district received recommendations for an employee salary raise model based upon a compensation and benefits study of other local government organizations of similar size.

Three models were considered, one of which was chosen as most favorable by board members at their regular board meeting Wednesday evening.

“This is just bringing us in line with what other organizations are doing,” said Coutts of the proposed new model.

He explained that the “step-in-grade system” model establishes top and bottom values for particular jobs, rather than the individuals in those positions.

Using this system, employees progress through grades until they reach the top step, at which they “max out” and are no longer eligible to receive additional raises.

“This puts everybody within a range and keeps them standardized,” said Coutts, adding that the system prevents individuals from receiving salaries that are beyond the recommended amount for their position. In the current model, there is no official salary cap.

The current raise plan involves a 3 percent merit pool in which supervisors multiply the entire amount of full-time salaries by 3 percent, and put it into a merit pool to be distributed to employees based primarily upon performance reviews.

For example, said Coutts, if he had three employees he could hypothetically distribute 6 percent to one, 3 percent to another and none to the third based upon the employees’ performance throughout the year.

Some board members, particularly Commissioner Mark Helpenstell, were reluctant to make a decision because two board members were absent from the meeting.

Helpenstell said he felt “very uncomfortable” making a decision without the input of board member Matt Simms, who was in South Korea at the time of the meeting and who, according to Coutts, had yet to respond to an email request for his input on the matter as of Wednesday.

The board is planning to hold a special meeting prior to its regularly scheduled September meeting to further discuss the plan and make a decision. Meanwhile, Coutts will seek Simms’ and board president Don Wood’s input and vote.

If the directors agree to approve the plan at this special meeting, Coutts predicted that it will be implemented immediately with the policy being enacted in September.

Coutts said the district had budgeted for implementation of a new raise plan and that the impact of the change would be minimal.

 

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