Merit increases for public staff should not be mysterious.
Anyone who performs above and beyond that which is normally expected should be rewarded and commended. It would be nice to believe that’s how city of Gardner’s merit increases function, but it appears the merit raises are cloaked in mystery and subjectivity.
This year’s budget calls for a $20,000 increase for merit raises; but specific answers as to how last year’s $60,000 was dispersed are hard to obtain.
In fact, Gardner staff indicated they are “exercising their right under KORA” to not produce a report indicating who or how the money was dispersed; although, they did provide personal information such as names, positions and salaries of all employees; just not the stellar employee increases.
After comparing 2013 data to 2014, we’re left to wonder at the subjectivity of the “merit” increases and whether the money was used to equalize salaries.
In fact, we have several concerns that, after asking, we still do not have clear answers about:
Is there a standard evaluation method in each department differentiating expected performance from exemplary?
Who evaluates department heads?
Why are directors and administrative services managers included in the merit increase? When based on percentages, the lion’s share of the merit pool goes to higher paid employees; give rank and file employees a better opportunity.
Although city staff exercised its right not to provide a list of “stellar” employees to the public, are city council and mayor made aware of who and how the money was dispersed? Who has oversight?
Should there be a cap on the amount of merit increase?
Why did some employees pay apparently increase by about 10 percent?
Is this why the city no longer publishes salary ordinances? Last year we were told the new budget method would be more transparent, but that’s not been our experience.
Finally, we believe Gardner has some excellent rank-and-file employees, and we believe in rewarding exemplary service.
However, from the information we were provided, it appears there is no clear cut, standard policy for implementing these merit increases, and it’s unfair to add a subjective merit increase to base salary that continues for the longevity of the employees.
The merit increase fund was not meant to be a slush fund for salary equalization and possible favoritism, and, as implemented, it is added to base pay and continues for the tenure of the employee. In other words, a $6,000 merit increase doesn’t cost taxpayers $6,000, it costs at least $60,000 (plus benefits) in addition to base pay if the employee remains 10 years. And if the merit policy continues to be used for pay equalization, it will become an undocumented pay increase, only available to the public by making several KORA requests.
That’s not transparency.
And it’s not good government.
We believe the merit pay increase should become a merit bonus.
Reward the employees who perform above that which is expected. Commend them.
Scrap the current “mystery” raise and give them a bonus.
Reward good performance, but do it fairly.