My monthly column usually, and primarily, centers upon and deals with countywide road repair issues.  At this point in time, the only road repair issue before all of us is whether Pima County voters will or will not approve Proposition 463: Bond Implementation Plan for Regional Road Reconstruction, Preservation, and Repair.  I addressed this subject in my article last month and I hope everyone has or will be taking the opportunity to educate themselves about this program put before the voters to fix our roads.  However, that vote does not take place until November.

In the meantime, the board of supervisors passed the county budget with a 3-2 vote, with yours truly voting against it.  One reason why I voted against the budget was that it mandated an automatic, across the board, pay increase of 2.5% for 7,087 of the 7,200 full-time County employees, effective July 1.

Three employees filled out paperwork to not accept the pay increase.  These three employees, out of Pima County’s eligible 7,087 employees, are all members of my staff in our District 4 office.  Apparently, according to Deputy County Administrator Tom Burke, my three staff members were the only county employees to reject the raise and special paperwork had to be generated by the county to acknowledge their raise refusal, a first time for Pima County.

Why did we reject the employee raise enacted in the new county budget? First and foremost, it would be hypocritical to vote against the budget that directed an automatic raise and then accept the raise itself.  Secondly, I don’t believe in “automatic” pay raises.  When I operated and owned my own business, we had no such thing as automatic pay raises.  I never received an automatic pay increase and I was the owner.  Just because an employee fills a position (maybe even year after year) doesn’t justify an automatic pay increase.  My company’s pay plans and potential salary raises were predicated on a merit-based format.  As an automotive retailer, there were plenty of opportunities to create merit-based pay plans.  Sales volume; gross and net departmental profits; productivity; customer satisfaction indexes; all were utilized as levels and bars to shoot for as employee motivators to earn pay increases.  Imagine if county employees had merit-based compensation. A county construction project’s completion date and budget restrictions being met could garner pay plan compensation by the county employees involved.  Constituent satisfaction indexes could be analyzed to motivate county employees to gain a higher level of compensation.  Departmental cost reducing/savings could be studied that could result in pay plan increases.  The list is endless.

Do I think a merit-based county employee pay plan could be instituted in Pima County?  Yes, I do.  However, after decades of automatic pay increases being the institutionalized, pay plan driver and norm, it would be very difficult to implement.  Years of bureaucratic habits would create great resistance to change, especially when it comes to county employee pay.

Yet, I believe it is something worth considering and it could change the relationship between county employees and county taxpayers in a very positive way.

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Steve Christy