by Peter Bodley
An Anoka County Board committee has dropped proposed language changes to Anoka County’s personnel rules and regulations governing promotional probationary period pay increases that had caused a sometimes heated discussion at the Dec. 13, 2010 board meeting.
At that time, the board unanimously agreed to table a decision on the proposal, which had been recommended by its Benefits and Compensation Committee, to the Jan. 10 meeting to allow for further consideration.
But when the committee, comprising Anoka County Board Chairperson Rhonda Sivarajah and Anoka County Board Vice Chairperson Robyn West, met Jan. 3, it decided not to move ahead with the proposed rule changes.
“There will be no change in the policy,” West told fellow board members at their Jan. 10 meeting.
Instead, the committee asked staff to “update and refine the probationary performance evaluation scales used in recommending employee salary increases.”
According to County Administrator Jerry Soma, staff will develop guidelines that supervisors will use to determine the percentage of promotional probationary period pay increases with the maximum being 5 percent of base salary.
The proposal from the committee would have limited the pay increase of up to 5 percent of base salary on successful completion of the six-month probation period to only when a new employee joins Anoka County.
According to the language in the committee’s original recommendation, in no event shall the employee be eligible for an initial hire salary increase before the employee has been in the position for six months, regardless of when the employee successfully completes probation.
And the language stated that the raise would be in lieu of accelerated range movement.
Former employees rehired as regular employees would not have been eligible for an initial hire probation salary increase when they returned to the same or similar job classification that they formerly occupied, the proposed language stated.
Right now, the eligibility for the up to 5 percent raise applies not only to new hires, but also to existing employees who are promoted to another position and successfully complete the six-month probation in the new job.
With their promotion, those employees also get an automatic 3 percent pay increase for every salary grade level they move up with the promotion, according to Sivarajah.
The proposed new language would have also required that any increase for the new hire would not exceed the midpoint of the appropriate salary range.
The current language for promotion probation increase of up to 5 percent states that it will not exceed the salary range maximum.
County Commissioner Jim Kordiak objected to the proposal Dec. 13. In his view, the current policy, which had been in place for many years, had not caused any problems that Kordiak was aware of during his 20 years as chairman of the Management Committee, he said.
It is well known that Anoka County pays its employees less than do comparable counties in the metro area and this is a way to spur career advancement in county government, Kordiak said.
According to Sivarajah, a reason for the proposed change was that employees receiving the promotional probationary increase sometimes end up earning more than a longtime employee in the same position and this “leapfrogging” has a “ripple effect.”
Under the present system, a person who is promoted and moves up three salary grade levels would get a 3 percent raise for each of the three grade-level movements plus be eligible for up to a 5 percent increase if they successfully completed their probationary period, Sivarajah said.
And while Anoka County employees may not earn as much as their counterparts in other counties, she said the county’s benefit package was “extremely generous” and “much richer” than other counties.
But County Commissioner Carol LeDoux said it was important that the county provide incentives for people to grow in their careers.
Peter Bodley is at firstname.lastname@example.org