Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Oconee County Commissioners Agree On Staff Salary Allocation, Discuss Future Changes In Animal Control Ordinance

Election Maneuvering

The Oconee County Board of Commissioners agreed last night to distribute unallocated salary money in the current budget differentially to address issues of pay compression within job classification categories.

The four voting commissioners unanimously approved the plan, developed by Commissioner John Daniell, rather than allocate money across the board, as advocated by Commission Chairman Melvin Davis.

Davis’ support for an across-the-board allocation was a change from his earlier call for merit increases, and the switch indicated that the 2016 election maneuvering has gotten underway.

While Davis has not indicated if he plans to seek a fifth term, Daniell has stated that he is considering running for the chairman position. Qualification for the election is in March.

In separate action, Commissioner Jim Luke expressed support for an overview of the county’s Animal Control Ordinance, saying he was particularly interested in discussing whether tethering should be banned in at least the urbanized part of the county.

25 Minutes

The commissioners spent more than 50 minutes discussing ways to distribute 1.5 percent available for salaries at its meeting on Dec. 15, 1 hour and 45 minutes in a work session on Dec. 29, and 25 minutes last night.

The Fiscal Year 2016 budget, approved by the Board on June 2, included 3 percent money for staff salary increases, and it allocated 1.5 percent in across the board cost of living allowances effective July 1.

But the Board in July delayed action on how to allocate the remaining 1.5 percent and didn’t reach a decision until last night.

Davis argued in July that the 1.5 percent should be distributed based on merit, but he never specified who would make the decision on distribution of the money or how it would be distributed.

Change In Course

At the meeting last night, Davis switched positions, saying he wanted to follow the recommendation of Malinda Smith, director of Human Resources, and distribute the remaining money across the board, with each employee getting 1.5 percent.

Daniell has been a proponent of allocating the money to address problems of pay compression within grades, and he made a motion to follow a pay for performance plan he had worked out to distribute the money unequally.

Commissioner Mark Saxon immediately seconded the motion, and Commissioner Jim Luke signaled his support for such a strategy.

Davis only votes in the case of a tie, so Daniell seemed to have the three votes he needed.

Answers Known

Following the motion by Daniell and second by Saxon, Davis asked Daniell a question and acknowledged that he knew the answer before asking, as the video below shows.

OCO: Davis Question from Lee Becker on Vimeo

Davis said the employees had assumed they would get the full 3 percent, and he proposed spending an additional $35,949 to increase salaries by a total of 3 percent for all employees and also make the compression adjustments in Daniell’s plan.

The rest of the Board did not agree, but Davis had made his point that he was arguing for an across the board increase of 3 percent for all employees and that Daniell was not.

Benko Figures And Support

County Administrative Officer Jeff Benko supported the plan offered by Daniell.

He said employees already had received a 1.5 percent cost of living increase to offset the effects of inflation and did not expect the full 3 percent to be across the board.

He said $345,000 was included in the budget for the salary increase, and $176,000 of that already had been spent for the 1.5 percent cost of living adjustment, leaving $169,000 for allocation.

Daniell’s plan actually spends $177,000, and there was no discussion of how that difference would be reconciled.

Animal Control Ordinance

Following the decision on salaries, the Board gave second reading to a revision of the Animal Control Ordinance that was designed to bring it into compliance with recent changes in state’s Dangerous Dog Law.

Commissioner Luke said he wanted to go on record as calling for a further review of the ordinance being approved, which he said is “lacking in some areas” and “weak.” Luke mentioned in particular tethering, which is allowed in the existing ordinance.

OCO: Luke On Animal Control Ordinance from Lee Becker on Vimeo

Luke suggested that a special committee be appointed to review the issue or that the Animal Control Advisory Board be asked to take up the issue again. The majority of members of that Board has expressed opposition to changes in the existing ordinance and support for tethering.

Commissioner Daniell said the Board of Commissioners should find out how the ordinance “affects our citizens.”

Public Comment

Daniell said that if 50 percent of the calls involve tethering, as has been asserted, “maybe there are some issues we can deal with.”

The discussion was billed as a public hearing, and Davis called for public comment following the remarks of Luke and Daniell.

I was the only one who spoke, and I suggested that the Board ask County Attorney Daniel Haygood or Administrative Officer Benko to look at ordinances being used elsewhere and bring them forward for consideration.

The Board passed the ordinance before it but did not take any formal action on Luke’s calls for further review of it in the near future.

Video Of Discussions

The discussions of the pay for county employees and of the animal control ordinance were back-to-back items on the agenda last night.

The video below is of that section of the meeting.

The clips above were taken from this longer video.

OCO: Salary And Animal Control from Lee Becker on Vimeo

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