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May 15, 2009

Setting Employee Pay

Recent news media reports have raised the question of how pay is established for County employees. We welcome scrutiny of employee compensation because we have a sound basis for determining pay and for evaluating the value taxpayers receive for this investment in County employees.

Unlike the single criterion The Charlotte Observer used to evaluate County employee pay (e.g., number of employees), we apply best business practices for establishing pay. These criteria include experience, expertise, performance, and comparisons against salaries provided for similar jobs in the market.

The Board’s compensation policy is committed to providing “market pay for market performance.” This approach sets the market rate for each County position based on the average salary for that position in the market. This allows highly proficient, experienced employees to receive competitive pay for the job they perform and the work they produce. It also provides an opportunity and an incentive for less experienced and proficient employees to develop and work towards obtaining market pay.

The County’s Human Resources Department identifies the market rate for each position using salary survey data from numerous nationally recognized third-party vendors (e.g., Towers Perrin, Mercer, and Watson-Wyatt) as well as salary data collected from similarly-sized local governments. Jobs are matched to market data based on the scope of responsibility and the required knowledge, skills and abilities. For executive positions, salary data are collected from comparable jurisdictions across the nation, because recruiting for these positions is done on a national scale. Pay rates for jobs recruited locally/regionally are based on the Charlotte-metro market and other comparable local governments in North Carolina.

Employees can receive a pay increase four ways: promotion; when their position is reclassified to a higher level; when their pay falls below the new market rate for their position; and when they receive a merit increase based on job performance. The most common pay raise occurs through a merit increase. Each employee has a work plan with specific performance standards. Employees are evaluated annually against those standards to determine the amount of pay increase their performance merits.

Employees also can receive an increase if the market rate for their position is increased beyond the level of their actual salary. FY 2010 was intended as the second phase in a two-year process to adjust market rates and bring actual salaries to 95% of the new market rate for those whose pay is below this level. In FY 2009, the Board funded the first year of this adjustment, which reduced the percentage of positions below market from 45% to 35%. The remaining 35% were to be adjusted in FY 2010, at a cost of approximately $1.9 million. With great reluctance, however, I did not include this funding in my recommended budget.

Employee compensation is a vital tool we use to recruit and retain a qualified and diverse workforce to serve our diverse community. We also recognize the importance of being good public stewards in setting pay and providing pay increases. Therefore, we use the best data available to make fair and competitive compensation decisions. More details on employee compensation (pay and benefits) and the cost of this compensation will be provided as part of the County Manager’s FY2010 Recommended Budget.

Charitable Giving Campaign
On January 21, 2009, the Board directed staff to obtain additional input from various stakeholders regarding a potential expansion of the County’s charitable giving campaigns. As a result, staff gathered input from County employees, Mecklenburg residents, and charitable organizations to determine community and employee support for opening charitable giving to more agencies. This input was generated by surveying each stakeholder group, as well as focus group discussion with employees.

This input indicates strong support for expanding the County’s charitable giving to multiple agencies, as well as consolidating the giving process into one campaign each year. At its May 19 meeting, the Board will receive a report on this input and other research conducted by staff. This report also will include a set of recommendation as follows:
  • Make a transition in September 2010 to one annual expanded campaign model that provides employees with additional giving options
  • Amend the Eligibility Criteria for Charitable Fundraising policy to support an expanded campaign. This would include requiring that participating charitable agencies meet the Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) 20 Standards for Charity Accountability. The BBB provides this service at no charge to interested charitable agencies.
  • Select a third-party organization to manage the operational requirements of administering an expanded campaign. Selection will be made using a formal Request for Proposal (RFP) process.
  • Maintain involvement of County employees and the County’s long-time charitable partners (the United Way of Central Carolinas and the Arts and Science Council).

The full report will be provided to the Board as part of the May 19 agenda packet (as well as online). Board members with questions may contact Human Resources Director Chris Peek at or 704-336-3138.

Budget Adoption Process

Some members of the Board have been asking about the process for considering and adopting the FY 2010 budget. As a result, staff will be presenting a detailed Budget Adoption Process to the Board as part of the Manager’s Report at the May 19 Board meeting.

In advance of the May 19 meeting, Board members will receive a description of the process, including dates for each phase. We recognize that a full understanding of the process may require some explanation, which will be provided at the May 19 meeting.

In addition to the process, we will be asking the Board to amend the budget workshop dates and times. Specifically, we would like to add a new workshop on Wednesday, June 3, and substitute a workshop on Thursday, June 4 while cancelling the workshop on Thursday June 11. In addition, these workshops would start at 5:00 p.m. rather than 6 p.m., with dinner served at 4:30 pm to accommodate this schedule. We will provide more details on this proposed new schedule at the May 19 Board meeting.


Tuesday, May 19
  • 3:00 pm, Health & Community Support Services Committee Meeting, CH 14, CMGC
  • 5pm, Dinner Meeting, CH14
  • 6pm, Regular Meeting, Chamber

- Harry L. Jones, Sr., County Manager

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