In this article posted by Michael R. Wickline on the front page of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, we learn that the new pay plan is finally in the works and is under review.
We are meeting with OPM next week to get more facts about the pay plan. We have a list of concerns, as we like some things about it, but some we need clarification on.
Please remember, this is the start of a 4-month process, and so far this is just a proposal. The legislators won’t vote on this until January.
If you have any concrete ideas on ways to improve the pay plan, please email John Bridges at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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For those without an arkansasonline account, the full text of the article is here:
State’s pay plan up for overhaul; wages would rise for 26,000 workers
Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s administration Wednesday proposed an overhaul of the state’s pay plan for about 26,000 full-time employees, which is projected to cost an additional $56.3 million in the next fiscal year.
The added cost includes $22 million in state general revenue. The plan, pending legislative approval, would be implemented in fiscal 2018, which starts July 1.
About 54 percent of these full-time employees would get pay raises of more than 1 percent each, enabling them to reach the new minimum salaries for their positions. The rest would get 1 percent pay raises, said Kay Barnhill, administrator of the office of personnel management.
A 1 percent cost-of-living raise for these employees would cost the state about $6 million a year in general revenue, she said.
State employees aren’t getting cost-of-living raises in the current fiscal year, which is fiscal 2017.
“I recognized early on that the state’s pay plan was antiquated and needed to be updated, which is why I commissioned the Department of Finance and Administration to study the current plan more closely and to recommend a more modern pay structure for the state,” Hutchinson said.
“This plan is a well-developed framework for consideration and we look forward to suggestions from legislators,” the Republican governor said in a written statement after the proposal was presented to the Legislative Council’s personnel subcommittee.
During the subcommittee’s meeting, Rep. Sue Scott, R-Rogers, said “$22 million is certainly a big chunk of money.”
She said the state possibly could save money by reducing turnover “by giving these employees the money that they certainly deserve.”
Barnhill said “the bigger cost involving turnover usually is the training and educating of those employees to make them functional” in their jobs.
Some of the larger increases being proposed are to raise the minimum salaries of entry-level positions. These increases are “because we really aren’t attracting the millennials and the younger people to state government,” Barnhill said.
Also, state officials want to begin rewarding employees with merit pay increases instead of one-time bonuses. The state has used the one-time bonuses for several years now. The merit pay increases would raise the employees’ base salaries.
The majority of the cost to implement the proposed pay plan would come from savings derived from Hutchinson’s “hiring freeze,” his spokesman J.R. Davis said after the subcommittee’s meeting. Agencies under the governor’s control currently have to obtain Hutchinson’s approval to fill vacant positions.
Davis noted that agencies under the governor’s control had 800 fewer employees earlier this year than when Hutchinson took office in January 2015.
The proposed pay plan wouldn’t cover employees at the state’s colleges and universities, the Highway and Transportation Department, the constitutional officers or workers in the judicial branch, Barnhill said.
The proposal is the result of several months of study, after Hutchinson requested a review of the current pay plan that was enacted in 2009, she told lawmakers.
Some of the problems with the current pay plan include that the labor market has changed dramatically since 2009; in order for workers to get raises, they must be promoted to jobs for which they’re unsuited; and there was no mechanism to increase pay for performing additional duties, Barnhill said.
To be implemented, the proposed pay plan will require the Legislature’s approval. Lawmakers are to convene in a regular legislative session starting Jan. 9.
In particular, the proposed pay plan would benefit such workers as: program eligibility specialists, registered nurses, Department of Workforce specialists, family service aides; residential-care technicians and assistants; and certain human-services specialists, administrative specialists, correctional officers and administrative specialists, Barnhill said. Turnover in these positions was in the double digits last fiscal year, she said.
For instance, the entry-level wage for a program eligibility specialist at the Department of Human Services is currently $27,858. The turnover for such positions was about 15 percent last fiscal year. The proposed pay plan would increase the entry-level salary to about $36,000, she said.
A residential-care assistant receives an entry-level wage of $18,855. The proposed pay plan would increase that entry-level salary to $22,000, “so that will help a lot of lower-grade positions at some of our facilities and institutions across the state,” Barnhill said.
As part of the proposal, the state would create four compensation “tables” to replace the current two tables.
The proposed “general” salary table would be used for 24,156 full-time employees and would cost an additional $43 million, including $16.7 million in general revenue, to implement. This table would have 15 pay grades with minimum, midpoint and maximum salaries for each grade.
On the “general” table, the minimum salary would be $22,000, and the maximum would be $140,592.
About 115 full-time employees at the Department of Human Services, Parks and Tourism Department, Revenue Division and the Military Department currently receive the minimum salary of $8 an hour, or $16,640 a year, Barnhill said.
The proposed “medical professionals” table would be used for 922 full-time employees and would cost an additional $8 million, including $3.1 million in general revenue, to implement. This table would have 10 pay grades with minimum, midpoint and maximum salaries for each grade. Employees covered under this table would include registered nurses or higher, doctors, pharmacists, dentists and medical specialists.
The minimum salary would be $63,830, and the maximum salary would be $270,455 on this table.
“As many are aware, we have problems recruiting and attracting RNs [registered nurses] in the state of Arkansas,” Barnhill said.
Rep. Michelle Gray, R-Melbourne, said the proposed minimum salary of $63,830 for a registered nurse is “way above the national average” by several thousand dollars a year.
But, Barnhill said that proposed minimum salary is in line with what’s paid a similar registered nurse at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences hospital. “We seem to have a lot of trouble in the Little Rock area and in the Washington County-Fayetteville areas,” she said, referring to retaining nurses.
The proposed “information technology” table would cover 691 full-time employees and would cost an additional $4.6 million, including $1.8 million in general revenue, to implement. This table includes 12 pay grades with minimum, midpoint and maximum salaries for each grade.
On this table, the minimum salary would be $33,403, and the maximum would be $161,680.
“This plan hopefully will enable state agencies to hire competent information technology personnel, and it may help eliminate some of the contracts that previously have been in place in various state agencies,” Barnhill said.
The maximum salary in this table is “what the market will bear, and sometimes that’s what the market requires for high-level critical jobs,” she said.
The proposed “senior executive” table would cover 138 full-time employees and would cost an additional $930,000, including $360,000 in general revenue, to implement. It would have five pay grades with minimum and maximum salaries for each grade. The minimum salary would be $108,110, and the maximum would be $201,700.