Study: Sheriff’s Office pay low

WOODSTOCK – Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office employees make less than their counterparts in similar agencies, a recent study shows.

The Board of Supervisors received a salary study conducted by the Springsted consulting firm on the Sheriff’s Office. Springsted Vice President Joel Davis presented the findings to the board Thursday. Findings note that the salaries paid to Sheriff’s Office employees are, for the most part, lower than the average salary rates paid in comparable organizations. Internal pay relationship inequities exist within the office.

Should the board adopt the report and implement the study’s recommendations, the county would allow for fairer and more equitable compensation to Sheriff’s Office employees in the competitive labor market, Davis said. The action would create improved opportunities to reduce turnover among existing employees and to recruit replacements when needed.

The board plans to continue its discussion about the salary study at a future work session. Sheriff Timothy Carter reminded the board that the county had a similar study conducted in 2007. The board didn’t act on that study’s recommendations at the time. Carter said he didn’t expect the board to take action on the latest study now but wanted members to at least have the information before the county starts working on the next fiscal budget.

Shenandoah County’s pay plan uses a step system with 31 grades and 5 percent between pay grades and 2.5 percent between steps, the study indicates. However, the Sheriff’s Office uses the Virginia Compensation Board pay plan – an open range/pay band system. The study offers grade recommendations to move the Sheriff’s Office staff onto the county pay plan.

Springsted surveyed agencies in Harrisonburg, Staunton, Waynesboro, Winchester, Front Royal and the counties of Augusta, Frederick, Page, Rockingham and Warren.

Springsted offered options to implement changes aimed at eliminating salary inequities and to increase the agency’s ability to compete for employees. The first option calls for the agency to move to the minimum or closest step to ensure that none of the salaries fall below the minimum of the proposed pay ranges. It would cost an estimated $42,512 to bring the employees under the county’s pay plan – 1.64 percent of the total salaries in the current payroll. This option increases market comparability and competitiveness, Davis explained.

The second option calls for the county to move to the minimum or two steps. The option would affect all Sheriff’s Office employees at an annual cost of $108,284 or 4.2 percent of total county salaries. This option provides the minimum level of funding to address salary compression problems, Davis noted.

The third option calls for adjustments related to years of service. The option addresses salary compression problems and affects all Sheriff’s Office employees. This option would cost $139,508 per year or roughly 5.4 percent of total county salaries. The option also provides a one-step increase per year of service, placing employees within grade.

The study also suggests annual adjustments in pay ranges and wages for employees. Springsted recommends adjustments that recognize employee performance sometimes referred to as merit pay increases. Salary adjustments based on performance are seen as better for overall employee morale than across-the-board pay increases, Davis said.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com