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County hiring freeze lifted with new pay plan

Posted: April 28, 2011 5:07 p.m.
Updated: April 29, 2011 5:00 a.m.

Kershaw County is hiring again, this time with a new employee pay plan in place.

Kershaw County Council voted 5-2 Tuesday evening to lift the county’s hiring freeze while simultaneously implementing an employee pay plan.

Interim County Administrator Frank Broom told council before the vote that the lack of a rational pay plan caused pay to be both unfair and inequitable in county departments. Because they were unable to hire an outside consultant, Broom said they took the most recent data available from the S.C. Association of Counties to formulate the plan.

“We think that this is a very important item. We think it will make your work force feel more comfortable in a rational system that ranks jobs in terms of relative of importance,” Broom said, requesting the board vote on it so it could be incorporated into the formulation of a draft budget.

Broom said administrators will make “the best effort they can possibly make” to move every employee into the new plan during the upcoming fiscal year.

“If we determine, while we are still in the draft stage, that we can’t attain 100 percent of our objective, then we will try to calculate what percentage we can make -- it may be 25 percent or 50 percent,” he said. “But our aim is to move the entire organization proportionately closer to the ideal of being on the plan, so the plan could be the foundation for how you recruit, retain and compensate employees from this point on.”

Broom said he doesn’t have a final cost of how much it will take to implement the plan. He said administrators will have to go through and look at each job, salary and fringe benefits in order to figure out what “percentage of attainment we can reasonably reach.” Later in the meeting, Broom said he would be able to provide a final cost during council’s May 5 work session.

Councilman Jimmy Jones, who voted against the measure, acknowledged the county needs a pay scale. Jones said, however, that he couldn’t vote for the measure Tuesday when he didn’t know how much it will cost or how it will be funded. He said there was no need “to rush to justice” without council having all information before it.

 “I have this question -- and I’ve asked this in open session a couple times before -- could this pay scale call for a tax increase next year? And I won’t bore Mr. Broom by asking him again, but he answered that question ‘yes,’” he said. “Well, folks, I’m not prepared to support a tax increase in this economy right now.”

But Councilman Stephen Smoak said they will still have control over the budget and millage levy.

“The fact of the matter is, this council ... will vote on the budget. We’ll have an opportunity to vote three times. We’ll have the opportunity to vote three times on the millage levy,” he said. “So we still have control over that issue, however that may ultimately be decided.”

Ultimately, councilmen Smoak, Bobby Gary, Tom Gardner, Sammie Tucker Jr. and Chairman Gene Wise voted to lift the hiring freeze and implement the pay plan.

Councilman C.R. Miles Jr. cast the other “no” vote.

Jones said that although he was in favor of lifting the hiring freeze, he could not vote for it as the pay plan was also included in the motion.

Wednesday afternoon, Miles said he only voted against the motion because he wanted to know the cost of implementing the pay plan upfront.

Wise said council will discuss the draft budget during its May 5 work session, which will require it to “do some due diligence” to look at budget requests.

In other news, Jones read a prepared statement to council expressing his concern about what he considered private straw polling and his desire to “get back to the business of running Kershaw County.”

“I feel like we’ve suffered through the pain of this hiring freeze, and now it’s time for healing and learning from our mistakes. Kershaw County has just been through a trying period; the past few weeks were the result of misinterpretations and misunderstandings,” he said. “A hiring freeze is a hiring freeze, period. When a governing body of our county makes a decision in public, that’s it, and no discussions afterward can change that.”

Wise said he was also glad council could move forward.

“Being a rookie councilperson, I am greatly sensitized to the issue … every time I look at something with my wife, I try to take away a leadership lesson from it,” he said. “Certainly in this case, I have. So I want to thank everyone involved for that. And I’m glad we’re moving forward as a county also.”

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