Salisbury Council Moves Forward With Pay Study

SALISBURY — After asking for employee benefits to be included in a planned salary study, the Salisbury City Council has decided to move forward with authorizing the originally recommended group, Evergreen Solutions, to conduct the evaluation.

Despite the qualification process to select an agency for the study being extremely close, City Administrator John Pick told the council Tuesday that the administration still believes that Evergreen presents the best return for the expense.

Once asked to include an examination and reasonable comparison of city employee benefits in the salary study, the cost of the assessment for all six agencies increased, with the exception of Hendricks and Associates and Management Advisory Group (MAG), the latter of which actually reduced their quote. However, Pick explained that MAG was also asking for additional money to perform an action that the other groups had included in their regular price, which would bring MAG’s total up from $34,975 to $40,975, which was close to the group’s average.

Price is only one of several factors in choosing an agency to evaluate employee salaries and make recommendations on how, or if, they should change. Once experience, communication and other points were weighed, Pick re-iterated that Evergreen is the administration’s clear choice, a recommendation made to the council earlier this month as well.

“We got together, we talked about it and we decided that we’re more comfortable with Evergreen Solutions,” he said. “And there’s always a certain amount of subjectivity that enters into this. We were more comfortable with their approach and I think that’s still the same.”

Council President Terry Cohen pointed out that Hendricks and Associates had originally scored almost identically to Evergreen, 3.9 to 3.95, respectfully. With the change in price due to the addition of a benefit examination in the study, Cohen wondered why the administration didn’t favor the now less expensive Hendricks and Associates.

According to Pick, Hendricks and Associates have a less than stellar track record with Salisbury after having performed a similar pay study roughly a decade ago.

“There was an awful lot of dissatisfaction among the employees and among the administration as well as a result of that study. There are still people, I think, in the city workforce who were here at that time that would grumble in complaint about Hendricks,” Pick said.

That kind of information, argued Cohen, should have been factored into the original scoring instead of being discussed after the fact.

“I have some heartburn over the selection issue here because it seems like a lot of qualifications came up after the decisions were made on the rating and the whole purpose of the rating is to obtain an objective evaluation,” Cohen said.

However, Cohen was still willing to act on the recommendation of the administration and support Evergreen being awarded the bid to conduct the salary study. Councilmembers Shanie Shields and Tim Spies concurred and Councilwoman Debra Campbell was absent, though Councilwoman Laura Mitchell re-iterated her long-standing protest of even conducting a salary study since she feels it is clear that city employees are undercompensated and an evaluation wastes money that could be put toward raises.

However, Cohen reminded the council that the study is a one-time expense while the issue with raises is that they would have to be sustainable annually.