County considers next phase of pay plan

Jason King

LUMBERTON — The Robeson County Board of Commissioners is considering putting money in the 2015-16 fiscal budget so that the second phase of a plan and classification system for county employees can be implemented. The plan aims at bringing pay and job responsibilities in line with other counties and the overall government market.

The plan is based on the results of a study conducted in late 2013 by Springfield Inc. of Richmond, Virginia. The study was the first of its kind in Robeson County since 2004.

The first phase of the plan was implemented during the current fiscal year. It resulted in the county’s 1,100-member workforce receiving an overall average salary increase of 5 percent, according to Jason King, Robeson County’s assistant manager. He said the same overall average increase for county employees can be expected during the upcoming 2015-16 fiscal year if the commissioners implement the second phase.

County Manager Ricky Harris is recommending in Phase 2 that the commissioners also receive a 5 percent increase, which would be their first pay hike in two years.

The commissioners would see their current annual salary of $15,237 jump to $15,998, according to salary figures provided by King. King’s figures show that Noah Woods, chairman of the board, would see his current salary of $18,798 increase to $19,737.

“Remember 5 percent for the commissioners is just the recommendation of the manager,” King said. “It’s possible they could take a smaller increase or no increase at all.”

Harris said at budget time last year that the new pay plan and classification system can be implemented over a two-year period without a cost-of-living increase being needed.

King said the cost of implementing the second phase of the plan would be less than $400,000 — about two-thirds of a single cent on the tax rate.

“The plan is working very well so far,” said King, noting that while Robeson County employee salaries mirror salaries in surrounding counties. He said the trick will be for Robeson County to keep its salaries “current” and in line with the region’s cost of living.

“This is a well-developed plan,” Chairman Woods said. “A lot of thought and work went into it.”

The chairman, however, would not say for certain if the commissioners would approve funding for the second phase.

“I can’t say for sure if it will be approved, but I hope we will be able to adopt it,” he said. “It’s been proposed and recommended by the manager. Now we have to just work it into the budget.”

Commissioner Raymond Cummings also praised the plan, touting it as the “best and fairest” way to increase the salaries of all county employees, including the commissioners.

Cummings said that in order to recruit and maintain skilled employees, the county must provide financial benefits equal to or better than surrounding counties.

“We have to improve in several areas, but overall our salaries are now equitable in relationship to other counties,” he said.

The next meeting of the board is June 15. The 2015-16 fiscal budget becomes effective on July 1.