Many Manatee County employees getting 3 percent salary increases

skennedy@bradenton.comSeptember 27, 2012 

MANATEE -- Manatee County employees will get a 3 percent across-the-board salary increase, with a minimum annual increase of $1,200 per person, officials said Wednesday.

But about 40 of the 1,644 Board of County Commission departments' employees, who have reached the top of their pay range, are not eligible for increases.

"The 40 employees are among the longest-tenured employees of the county," Nick Azzara, county information outreach coordinator, wrote in an email. "They are employees from nearly all ranks of the county, and all county departments. Over the years, their salaries steadily increased to the point that they reached the top of their pay grades."

But county staff members also learned Wednesday that an arrangement under which pay may be taken in lieu of vacation, which could help some of those ineligible for the across-the-board raises, will be announced soon.

Other constitutional officers, such as Manatee County Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller R.B. "Chips" Shore, said he will include wage earners who are above their top pay grade in the 3 percent pay raises.

"We followed suit with the county, in as much as we gave our employees an increase of either $1,200 or 3 percent, whichever was greater," Shore wrote in an email.

"Less than 7 percent of my employees (about 20 employees) are above their pay grade, so I included them in the increase, mainly because they are longtime employees who have been here and at the top for a long time, without any increase," Shore wrote.

Money for the raises came from $4.3 million saved because of lower health insurance costs, and was built into each constitutional officer's 2013 fiscal year budget, according to a letter written by County Administrator Ed Hunzeker earlier this month. But each constitutional officer may decide how he or she prefers to give salary increases.

Manatee County Tax Collector Ken Burton Jr. said he decided to convert the 3 percent across-the-board salary hikes into merit pay raises for his 95 employees.

"We are going to follow what the county did, but will do it as a merit pay raise," he said. "We've never done 3 percent across-the-board, we always converted it into merit pay raises, but it has to average 3 percent."

Sheriff Brad Steube said it will be two or three weeks before he figures out exactly

how to go about dealing with the "wage compression" issue that is plaguing his roughly 1,150 employees.

"Wage compression" or "pay compression" is when more-experienced workers fall behind newer ones in pay.

"As you know, we were given $3.2 million to handle the compression issue," Steube said. "I have a person coming next week that wrote the salary plan we've been giving to the county commission every year.

"We'll figure out the best way to attack the compression issue. I can't really answer it right now," he said. "It will be two or three weeks before we figure out exactly what we're going to do."

County commissioners earlier this month approved a $464 million budget, which called for no tax increases.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.com.

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