GRDA pay raise proposal rebuffed by Governor's Office
BY RANDY KREHBIEL World Staff Writer
Thursday, January 17, 2013
1/17/13 at 7:54 AM
VINITA - A pay raise proposal for about 60 percent of the Grand River Dam Authority's employees may hit a brick wall at the Capitol.
Alex Weintz, a spokesman for Gov. Mary Fallin, said late Wednesday that "senior members of Gov. Fallin's staff have expressed concern over the proposal to grant pay increases to all classified employees at the GRDA."
"Generally speaking, Gov. Fallin believes that raises should be tied to performance," Weintz said. "She encourages the GRDA and other state agencies to move to a system of performance pay rather than simply increasing compensation for all employees across the board."
GRDA board members had approved a 3 percent pay increase for all classified employees earlier Wednesday. It would be the workers' first raise since January 2009, when they received a 2 percent increase.
Because the GRDA is a nonappropriated agency, the pay raises would not affect the state's finances, but the compensation proposal must be approved by the governor because of a state hiring and pay freeze.
In addition, Fallin and the Republican-led Legislature will be considering changes to state employees' pay structure during the coming legislative session.
Generally speaking, the state has two types of employees - classified and unclassified.
Classified employees are subject to the merit protection system, and their pay is set according to job description, title and qualifications. Their base pay can increase only through a change in classification or a change in the compensation scale.
Pay for unclassified employees - who tend to be higher-paid professionals such as doctors, lawyers and engineers or other employees with highly specialized skills - is not limited by the classification scale, but unclassified employees do not have as many job protections.
"Moving forward," Weintz said, "Gov. Fallin and her staff are currently looking at ways to ensure that a process exists to fairly and uniformly evaluate proposed salary increases for state employees. As part of this process, a study of agency director salaries is currently being undertaken. Additionally, the governor will request a total remuneration study this session to give legislators more information to determine the compensation needs of state employees."
Weintz said a 2011 study by the state Office of Personnel Management showed that total compensation for GRDA employees was about 8 percent above market.
In fact, the study showed that salaries were generally equal to or less than in the private sector but that benefits were much higher, resulting in slightly higher overall compensation.
But some GRDA insiders complained privately that the study was poorly designed, and GRDA officials have said they have trouble recruiting and retaining workers in some occupations.
"We recently advertised for a lineman position and received three applications," CEO Dan Sullivan said Wednesday. "Others advertising similar positions have had five times that many."
Sullivan said the compensation adjustment would cost about $750,000 and is part of the GRDA's 2013 budget - as is an 8 percent rate reduction for customers.
Although Sullivan said four years was too long for employees to go without a raise - especially as salaries for nonclassified employees were going up - Weintz said GRDA workers should not get preferential treatment.
"The governor certainly recognizes that the GRDA, like other government agencies, has many deserving and hardworking employees," he said.
"However, GRDA employees did receive an across the board pay hike of 2 percent in 2009. (Other) state employees have not had a similar across-the-board pay increase since 2006."
Original Print Headline: Pay hike proposal by GRDA rebuffed
Randy Krehbiel 918-581-8365