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|Merit pay at Green Oaks questioned|
Instituting merit-based pay for Green Oaks Detention Center employees was put on hold earlier this week in light of a request for more information on the matter.
The Ouachita Parish Police Jury's finance committee met Monday to review several departmental budgets as it prepares to craft its budget for the 2010 fiscal year.
Green Oaks Detention Center's budget was one of several discussed by the finance committee. A proposal to implement a merit-based pay system at Green Oaks was first discussed earlier this month during a police jury regular meeting.
The detention center's board of directors recently voted to adopt a merit-based pay system, but the change must be approved by the police jury since the police jury oversees operations at Green Oaks. If approved by the police jury, Green Oaks officials would use annual employee evaluations as a tool for merit-based pay adjustments.
Under a merit system, employees who score higher on their annual evaluations would receive a higher pay increase each year. The police jury typically provides its employees with an annual cost-of-living raise.
Green Oaks director Mike Rhodes said he reviewed 2007 and 2008 staff evaluations and found most employees would have received roughly a 3 percent pay increase on the merit-based pay system in both years. An employee who achieved the highest possible score on the merit-based pay system would receive a 5 percent increase each year.
The police jury typically provides a 2.5 percent cost of living pay increase to employees each year.
"The thing about merit pay is if someone is doing a good job, he's going to get the merit pay, and if his score doesn't come up, then he won't," Rhodes said.
Police Jury vice president Walt Caldwell said during the police jury's Oct. 5 regular meeting that he would not support a merit-based pay system for several reasons. He said the police jury at one time had a merit-based pay system, but it was deemed a "huge failure." Too often, according to Caldwell, it was upper level administrators who received the most pay increase on the merit-based system. He also said there was "an explosive growth in the payment of a few people and not others."
Another issue at the detention center is the matter of raising employees' starting pay to a level comparable to other detention centers in the region. According to Rhodes, it would cost the parish a total of $41,238 to bring all employees' base salary up to a competitive level.
The majority of the money would be needed to raise the starting salaries for juvenile detention officers II. Green Oaks has 28 JDO II employees and the amount needed to raise their starting salaries would be $27,784.
Some employees are currently making below minimum wage, Rhodes said.
"Our people are so far behind and we're trying to bring them up, and that's where that $41,000 comes in," he said.
Police Jury president Shane Smiley said to raise employees' starting salaries to competitive levels would mean some employees would basically get a 10 percent raise. If those same employees achieved the highest possible score on their evaluations, they will get another 5 percent pay increase in one year.
He questioned if the police jury had money budgeted for these pay increases.
Caldwell said he would be more agreeable to increase the starting pay for Green Oaks employees over switching to a merit-based pay system.
Regarding the merit-based pay system issue, finance committee chairman Charles Jackson said the police jury would need more information before it takes any action.