By Kim West
Limestone officials are taking steps they said could help prevent employees from taking better-paying positions with surrounding municipalities.
The County Commission on Tuesday unanimously approved a new pay plan for the county’s approximately 250 employees.
Before voting for the new pay plan, District 2 Commissioner Steve Turner said the measure would make county employees’ wages “more in line” with other counties.
The pay rate changes will take effect March 30, which is the start of a new pay period and the midpoint of the county’s fiscal year.
The plan is not an automatic across-the-board raise, as with the county’s annual cost-of-living increase, and it does not affect salaried employees such as the commissioners and chairman.
No employee will receive a pay decrease as a result of the changes, according to county officials. Supervisors and the commissioners must still approve annual merit raises.
The new pay plan’s impact is $230,283 for fiscal 2014, while next year’s budget will include the annual expense of $460,566.
The new plan has 18 grades beginning at $7.95 per hour and a 10.5 percent increase between grades. There are 17 steps, with each step representing a year of employment.
Each hourly worker is assigned to grades 2-15 based on their job responsibilities, but the county does not currently have workers at grade level 1 or 16-18.
For example, a custodian formerly started at $8.18 per hour. The new plan pays $8.78 the first year, with a maximum $14.41 rate after 17 years if approved for all merit increases.
Examples of Grade 8 positions are sheriff’s deputies and the work release superintendent. They formerly started out at $14.13 per hour but will now begin at $15.99 but cannot exceed $26.23 after 17 years.
The county started the process to revamp its pay structure in November 2012, when the commission approved Auburn University’s Center for Governmental Services to submit pay restructuring recommendations. The center presented its findings during the commission’s regular meeting on Oct. 29, 2013.
The study looked at several nearby municipalities, including the cities of Athens, Decatur and Madison and Madison and Morgan counties.