County Manager David Hankerson had a lukewarm reaction, at best, to most of the efficiency suggestions offered up last week by the Cobb Commission-appointed Citizen Oversight Committee. And he wasn’t interested in creating full-time audit and compensation committees.
But Hankerson was “all systems go” for the COC’s recommendation that the county hire a consultant to perform a class, pay and benefits study.
Commission Chairman Tim Lee also quickly jumped on board.
“It’s something that we agreed five, six years ago that we needed to do on a regular basis,” he said. “To keep competitive, to keep our positions and our programs and our compensation packages competitive, so that we don’t lose good folks. We need to find where the market is now; it’s changed considerably over the last couple years.”
Indeed, it has. Just ask the many Cobb residents struggling to pay their property taxes (which Lee and his board hiked last year) despite having lost their jobs due to the prolonged economic downturn. Or ask the many residents who have jobs, but jobs that pay less in salary and benefits than the ones from which they were downsized during the downturn.
Meanwhile, taxpayers who keep an eye on local governments have deciphered the way bureaucracies “game” salary studies. They’re used to justify higher salaries for many employees or pay grades because some other jurisdiction halfway across the metro area is paying more than we are. So we raise our pay. Then guess what? Those other jurisdictions do studies that show we’re paying more than they are, and thus raise their compensation; and the cycle repeats itself.
And when was the last time you heard of such a study that reported that the sponsoring government was paying most, or all — or any — of its workers too much, and recommended decreases?
With the private sector struggling to make payrolls, with private-sector annual raises a distant memory for many workers and with a surplus of qualified people competing in the job market, it’s hard to see much justification for such a study. And it’s hard to see any justification for spending close to a half-million tax dollars on it; especially coming on the heels of last year’s decision by Lee’s commission to axe library services and close senior centers.
Lee and Hankerson seem to be operating on the theory that most or all of the county workers under them are irreplaceable and thus deserve Cadillac-level compensation. They are not and do not, especially with so much of the county and so many taxpayers under water.
Taxpayers here and everywhere are tired of funding above-market salaries and lavish retirements for government workers. Such sentiments are not confined just to Wisconsin.
So if Cobb leaders are curious about how much county workers are getting paid in nearby jurisdictions, then rather than forking over local tax dollars to find out, we suggest they tell their HR Department to send out a questionnaire or start dialing away.