Tag Archives: salaries

Haslam on merit pay system: ‘We’ll get better’

Gov. Bill Haslam is downplaying criticism of his new merit-based plan for setting state employee salaries contained in a recent state comptroller’s audit.

From The Tennessean:

On Monday he told reporters it’s important to focus on the overarching goal of awarding the best state employees, while acknowledging it will take time to accurately calculate which employees are actually the best.

“We will continue to get better, in terms of how we rate, evaluate people. As I’ve said all along, the most unfair thing of all is to treat everybody the same, and fortunately we’re moving away from that,” Haslam said after an event at Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center.
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Auditors question merit pay plan for state employees

There is major disagreement between state auditors and top Human Resources Department officials about Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan to eliminate across-the-board pay raises for 40,000-plus executive-branch employees and replace them with a merit-pay system, reports Andy Sher.

A new performance audit by Comptroller Justin Wilson’s office questions whether enough managers and supervisors were adequately trained to ensure the new standards, employee performance plans and evaluations work objectively and fairly as promised.

Auditors also warned that “a number of weaknesses in the performance management model could affect the objectiveness and fairness of the process.”

Human Resources Commissioner Rebecca Hunter and department officials rejected many of the findings. A former Hamilton County government personnel chief, Hunter said auditors’ concerns about training are misplaced.

“We feel very confident that our learning initiatives are competent and effective,” Hunter told a joint House and Senate Government Operations Subcommittee during a Dec. 16 hearing on the audit.

Hunter later added, “I think our biggest challenge here was the timing of the audit was in the middle of our efforts to make the process better.”

…Pay for performance is a key provision in Haslam’s 2012 landmark Tennessee Excellence, Accountability, and Management (TEAM) Act.

TEAM rewrote decades-old civil service laws to promote Haslam’s vision of a better-trained, better-managed and high-performing workforce. The act rewards those who do well under a five-tier evaluation system, and makes it easier to fire poor performers.

Hunter and her top deputies describe a “massive culture change” now taking effect after more than three years of hard work. The audit lays out the sometimes painful details of significant challenges faced by the Human Resources officials who spearheaded training for managers and supervisors across 33 executive departments and agencies.

Among them was having only 14 facilitators in the department’s Strategic Learning Solutions Division tasked with training 8,500 executive branch managers and supervisors by July 31, 2015, as “raters” for the new process, auditors said in one finding.

Note: The full audit report is HERE.

TDOC paying $1,000 bonus to employees for not quitting

Amid ongoing problems with retaining and recruiting staff, Tennessee prison administrators plan to pay current officers a $1,000 “retention bonus” before the end of the year, reports The Tennessean.

The move affects 3,300 officers, representing a possible $3.3 million price tag. The changes to how the department paid officer overtime — a key factor cited by officers and the Tennessee State Employee Association as to why officers quit their jobs — was expected to save the state $1.4 million.

Tennessee Department of Correction Commissioner Derrick Schofield announced the decision Tuesday in a staff memo, obtained by The Tennessean.

“As you know, working in this field is not easy. This bonus shows our appreciation for their dedication to this department,” Schofield writes in the memo.

The bonus is a “one-time, self-funded” payment by the department that will go to correctional officers, corporals, sergeants, lieutenants, captains and inmate relations coordinators, according to the memo.

TSEA President Bryan Merritt lauded the bonuses, but said they likely won’t be enough to stop officers from walking out the door.

“It is no secret the department of correction continues to face challenges with officer recruitment and retention, and we applaud their decision to self-fund this bonus for correctional officers; however, while bonuses are valued, until policies and practices which directly impact staffing levels are corrected, we believe the department will continue to face these issues,” Merritt said in a prepared statement.

Staffing vacancies have plagued the prison system for months. In early August, department officials told state lawmakers there were 302 vacancies among the 2,644 total officer positions. Nearly half of those vacancies were concentrated at West Tennessee State Penitentiary in Henning, with another 75 reported at Northwest Correctional Facility in Tiptonville.

McCormick pulls bill that would have raised Hamilton County commissioners’ pay

A quiet effort by Hamilton County commissioners last month to set their own pay scale has died a quiet death in the Tennessee General Assembly, reports the Times-Free Press.

Rep. Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, said he has pulled a bill that would have given local commissioners direct control over their salaries.

Eight of nine commissioners in February sent a letter asking local delegates to remove an exception in state law that ties Hamilton County commissioners’ pay to the county mayor’s salary. Only Commissioner Joe Graham declined to sign.

The intent was noble — to make commissioners have to publicly vote to raise their own pay, like every other county in the state. However, their method drew criticism from good-government groups.

McCormick says that because of an unforeseen consequence, passage of the bill would have automatically given the commissioners a roughly $4,000 pay bump.

State law bases public officials’ pay scales on county population — commissioners in more-populous counties earn more.

The Hamilton County Commission’s pay is set based on the county population in 1991, and the commissioners only get raises if the mayor does. In fiscal 2014, commissioners’ pay was $21,368 a year, with the chairman making $24,638. The county mayor made $151,006.

McCormick said ditching that exemption would reset their pay at current population numbers. And Hamilton County has grown a lot in 24 years.

“Commission pay for a county the size of Hamilton County would be a minimum of $25,000,” McCormick said.

…The whole ordeal has left Commissioner Greg Beck scratching his head.

He doesn’t want the raise, but he does want to fix what he sees as the problem — the 1991 private act that exclusively bound Hamilton County Commission pay.

Beck says he wants lawmakers to figure out how to avoid the automatic raise based on population and bring Hamilton County commissioners’ compensation method in line with the rest of the state.

“If commissioners told the state to take it off, if commissioners choose to be in handcuffs, so be it. I think I have more discipline than to go and vote myself a raise, but I don’t want to handcuff myself and appear that I don’t have discipline,” Beck said. “It’s just like saying, ‘Tie my hands, Mommy, and keep me from going in the cookie jar.’ It’s just ludicrous.”

McCormick said lawmakers could likely doctor the law this year, but he didn’t want to rush a change this session.

Community college paying $400k in bonus ‘stipends’ to selected officials

Former Chattanooga State Community College President Jim Catanzaro quietly awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional compensation to select professors and administrators and the practice remains in effect, reports the Times-Free Press.

Stipends are a common practice for colleges and school systems, which often pay teachers more for coaching, sponsoring clubs or taking on other additional duties. Those stipends exist at Chattanooga State, but much of the college’s $400,000 in stipends is going to those at the top — sometimes to executives already making six-digit salaries.

Catanzaro resigned in December amid a scandal surrounding his hiring of Chief Innovations Officer Lisa Haynes, who herself had received an $18,000 stipend on top of a base salary of $90,000.

The Times Free Press received a list of the stipends under the state’s open records act.

Altogether, the college was budgeted to spend about $408,000 this year on stipends for the faculty, staff and administration, including:

* Jim Barrott, vice president of technology and technical college director, who receives $22,800 on top of his annual salary of $116,316 for supervising the college’s engineering division, business division and computer center.

* Executive Vice President for Business and Finance Tammy Swenson, who receives an extra $12,000 annually for undefined “additional duties” on top of her $128,430 salary.

* Basketball coach Jay Price, who receives an extra $24,896 in annual stipends on top of his $63,312 salary.

* Baseball coach Greg Dennis, whose $63,383 salary is boosted by an extra $26,000 — $21,000 of which is compensation for field maintenance and fundraising efforts.

…Chattanooga State interim President Fannie Hewlett said she’s looking into all stipends and expects to end some of them as contracts expire this summer. The college is searching for a permanent president, who likely will take over sometime in the summer.

TSEA survey: 87% of state workers believe evaluations subjective

News release from Tennessee State Employees Association:
NASHVILLE – The Haslam administration plans to eliminate across-the-board pay raises and tie state employee pay and compensation to performance evaluation results, but the objectivity of the State’s performance evaluation system is in question according to a recent survey by the Tennessee State Employees Association.

Beginning in January, the Governor’s Pay-For-Performance (or Merit Pay) system would reward employees evaluated as “Valued” a 2% pay increase; employees evaluated as “Advanced” would receive 3%, and those evaluated as “Outstanding” would receive 4% for FY2016.

The TSEA survey, consisting of two questions and distributed to state employees, found that 87% of respondents believe the state’s SMART Performance Evaluation system is subjective, meaning the results can vary due to a supervisors personal feelings, prejudices, or interpretations. Of survey respondents, 79.4% also indicated they were told by their supervisor that they cannot be evaluated higher than a “3” or what is considered “valued.”

“The Haslam administration wants to take away longevity pay for state employees and only ‘reward’ employees based completely on a subjective and possibly restricted performance evaluation system.” said TSEA Executive Director John Summers. “We are very concerned that, even if funds are available each year for raises, some employees under the Governor’s performance-pay system will find their earning potential limited by their supervisors.”

According to DOHR Commissioner Rebecca Hunter, the department’s own audit of the SMART Performance Evaluation system indicated the system was only “92% smart.” TSEA believes there is more work to be done before we can be assured Governor Haslam’s pay-for-performance system is objective and fair to all state employees.

Note: The Senate Democratic Caucus liked the above and was quick to offer Haslam-critical commentary. The release is below.
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Some TVA Workers Unhappy With Posting of Their Salaries (median: $74,466?)

A lot of TVA employees are unhappy that the Chattanooga Times Free Press made all their salaries available on the newspaper’s website, according to a Sunday followup report.
The flood from TVA has lessened but not dried up completely. I’m not referring to the controlled flooding at TVA’s numerous dams; rather, this is about the tsunami of responses I have received in the two weeks since the Times Free Press put the salaries of TVA’s 12,515 employees on our website.
Some threatened me and wished me bad luck, unhappiness and, well, let’s just say great personal misfortune. One irate woman ended her email this way: “Wishing you the worst.” A few left me anonymous, expletive-laced voice mails.
The newspaper’s use of the Freedom of Information Act to obtain the public information is “sleazy and unethical,” according to one TVA employee. Another said publishing the salaries is “disruptive to productivity and efficiency because of the inevitable emotional effects, including jealousy and resentment.
” A top TVA official, in a letter to employees, said TVA turned the information over to the newspaper because it “is important that we try to maintain the level of transparency … that the public expects from us.”
…Another reader commented: “TVA employees whose median income is $74,465 surely have the means to search for and read Title 5 of the U.S. Code, or their own site’s good summary at www.tva.gov/foia/. We’re coming up on 50 years of this law essential for us to be a democracy.”

Note: the salary listings are HERE, part of a public information listing that also includes mug shots of criminal suspects.

Haslam Raises Cabinet Salaries 11 Percent

By Erik Schelzig
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has increased how much his agency heads earn compared with what their counterparts made in the administration of his Democratic predecessor, an Associated Press analysis of public records has found.
Haslam, who has proposed a 1.6 percent raise for state employees, has increased the minimum pay for commissioners by 11 percent to $150,000. The raises come as Haslam seeks to eliminate nearly 1,200 government positions to help cope with the $2 billion in federal stimulus grants ending in the upcoming budget year.
“It’s my philosophy that in government we should probably have fewer people — but people that we pay better,” Haslam told the AP in an interview on Wednesday.
Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman, who was sworn into office Tuesday, is the best-paid agency head. The former Teach for America vice president is making $200,000 per year, up $20,000, or 11 percent, from his predecessor in Gov. Phil Bredesen’s administration.
Meanwhile, Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons’ nearly $178,000 salary is $43,000 more than his predecessor, a 32 percent increase. Gibbons during last year’s gubernatorial contest endorsed Haslam after giving up his own bid for the Republican nomination..
“The governor is working to transform state government, and in order to do that he has attempted to make salaries more market comparable across state government,” Gibbons said in a statement.

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