published Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

Bradley officials meet on county salary disparity

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CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Bradley officials would like to create a uniform job and salary grade system that ultimately may include a merit pay program for county employees.

The Bradley County Commission recently held the first official meeting of its Compensation Committee to determine its core objectives and address underlying issues that some members said the county has ignored.

“I think where we sort of dropped the ball is we [the county] don’t actually have a plan in place,” Commissioner Mark Hall said. “I think Bradley County has sometimes drifted along and hoped everything works out.”

The lack of a countywide compensation plan has forced Bradley’s various departments to develop their own plans in a haphazard and fragmented way, officials said.

“All of us know that to compensate people at some kind of equitable application of the money is a tough one because there is such a diversity already there in the way we are doing things,” said Commissioner Terry Caywood, chairman of the committee.

Caywood cited the beginning annual salaries of county firefighters and sheriff’s deputies — $24,000 and $32,000, respectively — as examples of salary differences which the committee must examine to see if they’re fair when compared to the job requirements.

The first step, the committee determined, is to request detailed job descriptions from each of the county’s departments. In addition to duties performed, those descriptions will need to include necessary job requirements and credentials.

The investment in time and expenses to attain certain credentials, whether college courses, training or other education, should be a factor in determining fair compensation, Caywood said.

The compensation committee faces a potential roadblock without the full participation of all the county’s departments, said Rene Samples, Bradley County’s human resources director.

Committee members agreed they probably could not force department heads to participate, but they debated if they could exclude any department from any potential benefits of the study if they failed to cooperate with the request for job descriptions.

The committee plans to compare data with that from a recent compensation survey completed by Sevier County and to review plans already in place in Rutherford County and other counties similar to Bradley in population and services.

Salary, insurance benefits, paid holidays and sick leave have been determined to be the chief comparative benchmarks for developing a countywide compensation plan, according to officials.

“It will probably be a long road, but we’ve got to start somewhere,” Caywood said.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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