We could hear the collective groan across Robeson County yesterday as readers of this newspaper learned the county Board of Commissioners has agreed to hire a firm to make current the county’s classification and compensation system for its employees.
The company, Springsted Inc., a national consulting company with an office in Richmond, Va., says it can complete the work in six months for a cost that will not exceed $31,500.
Sounds to us like a good idea, one that might even be a bit tardy.
First, the decision by the Board of Commissioners to hire a national firm to conduct the study will swat aside suggestions that politics will steer the effort, and that the deck will be stacked in this direction or another one to favor a cousin or a friend. Given that the public remains distrustful of our county commissioners over their pay, benefits and discretionary money, that’s an important hurdle.
Second, the study will bring fairness to how the county’s 1,100 employees are classified and how the county’s $41 million annual payroll is distributed. The last study was about a decade ago, and each day the current system ages it drifts a bit from the middle of the road.
Finally, the study should make sure that Robeson County is competitive with similar governments and the private sector in the labor market, and that it can offer pay and benefits that allows it to hire qualified employees, which will always be the most important ingredient to an efficient government, one that meets the needs of the public.
The most significant correction will be for employees who have worked for Robeson County for 10 years or more. The current system hits a brick wall at 10 years, meaning that employees who have worked longer than a decade have nowhere to go. That puts the county at risk for losing valuable people who have experience to retirement or a job elsewhere.
The cost of the study, which Springsted Inc. has said will not exceed $31,500, is a small drop in a large bucket, about what a county clerk might earn — or the amount of revenue raised by 1/20th of a single cent on the tax rate. So the cost to an owners of a $100,000 home would be about 50 cents.
We know there will be critics, but it seems a very small price to pay to ensure fairness within the system and competitiveness outside of it.