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Delaware County Councilwoman Elaine Paul Schaefer is seen in this photo from January.

Starting in June, Delaware County employees will get a $2.2 million pay raise - through the first-of-its-kind formal compensation structure approved Wednesday.

On Wednesday, Delaware County Council unanimously approved the compensation structure recommended by McGrath Human Resources Group with a full implementation date of June 1.

In December 2019, county council unanimously approved hiring McGrath Human Resources Group to study the compensation of court and county employees, following Sheriff Jerry L. Sanders Jr.'s request to increase his deputies salaries by $5 an hour due to retention and recruitment issues.

According to county Personnel Director James Kane, the $2.2 million had been included and approved in the 2021 county budget and added that it was the first time that the county had such a compensation structure. That included a 1 percent overall salary increase for non-union employees that was put into effect Jan. 1 and a 2 percent allowance for adjustments in align with the compensation study.

"This is so desperately needed," county Councilwoman Elaine Paul Schaefer said. "We are desperate for this ... We have more than a third of our current workforce eligible for retirement and we have a system in place that is not attractive. It's not attractive to people coming in because it's scattershot and the lower rank positions are very often underpaid. If we want to be the county we want to be, this is exactly what we need to be doing as painful as it is."

Controller Joanne Phillips agreed, noting how she had to hire people at $10.63-an-hour.

"It's something that I hope council will really focus as we move forward on our lower paid positions and that there is equity for those people that are in the building every day through pandemics doing their work," she said.

To move all current employees to the first step in a 10-step pay scale will cost the county $1.9 million, according to Kane.

A second phase, called compression adjustments, will cost $300,000, he added. Compression comes into consideration in a situation where there are two or more similar jobs in a department. When one is held by a person who's been there for a few years and another is a recent hire, compression occurs when the former employee is raised up the step process, and given more pay, than the new hire.

Kane said making the compression adjustments will take through this year and next, although he explained that compensation itself is a dynamic issue.

"Compensation and the structure we've provided ... is a living, breathing organism and it will continue to grow and develop," he said. "Salary grids will change over time but what we want to do is be able to keep up with the market and now, make this document something that will last for a long time."

Some will see significant adjustments, he added as the compensation will change depending on the current salary rate, the duties of the position and a comparison of what other local county governments pay. Positions were also retitled as a part of the structuring.

"That will help us in two forms - pay people more properly and get us the ability to market ourselves better when we go to advertise positions," Kane said.

There are about 3,000 county employees.

"The system very clearly needed a schedule," Kane said, adding that the update has been completed.

The process included meeting with department directors, elected officials and President Judge Kevin F. Kelly to get feedback and conversations will continue as the plan is implemented, Kane said. It also looked at data in other counties, including Bucks, Chester, Montgomery, Berks and Philadelphia counties.

The structure includes a 10-step salary schedule for the non-bargaining employees that creates new grades for every job in the county.

"Opportunities will be to get people at Step 1 in Year 1 and then move people up in the step as long as performance is acceptable," Kane said. "They can advance their raise based on percented budget each year with acceptable performance again. So a non-performer may not receive an increase, whereas a performer could get something a little different."

The steps themselves will be increased based on the consumer price index and changes in the market.

Kane said the new payroll structure will be built into the payroll system through the Controller's Office sometime in April, with a June 1 implementation target date. And, he said the ultimate goal is to have this available on the county website.

As part of creating this structure, jobs were renamed and titles were created that fit market data to better specify what the actual job entails. For example, the county now has 19 different administrative specialists and the contract assistant position in the Public Works Department will change to physical support assistant.

"We are definitely going to review, refresh and have new job descriptions in the next six months," Kane said. "We want to get those job descriptions updated. Some are good. Some are not."

In addition, he said a new performance appraisal system is something his department would like to implement to determine what good performance looks like and to also give managers and employees an opportunity to talk.

"We want to train managers to do performance evaluations well and we want employees to feel comfortable to talk to their managers," Kane said, adding that this is something for council to consider at a later time.

County council expressed its support for the new structure.

"The most important asset of the county and county government is our people," county Councilman Kevin Madden said. "It's what we have. It is incumbent upon us to be as smart as we possibly can in terms of hiring and retaining our talent. It's what our jobs are as we are elected by the taxpayer."

Council also approved hiring TRION as a benefits brokerage consultant through a professional services agreement. Council Chairman Brian Zidek abstained from this vote.

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