Sedgwick County employees who make less than $75,000 could do their job poorly but still get a 2 percent raise next year under a measure commissioners will consider Wednesday.
As part of cost-cutting moves, commissioners voted earlier this year to suspend the pool for performance-based merit raises, instead opting to give 2 percent raises. But they didn't specify whether that would include employees who didn't measure up in their evaluation.
Under performance-based pay, an employee could earn between a 2 and 6 percent pay increase based on how many points he or she earned in an evaluation and on the employee's department's budget. Employees who received a score below the minimum weren't eligible for a pay increase.
Some commissioners thought employees still would have to meet performance criteria to get the 2 percent raises; others apparently didn't.
Sedgwick County Manager William Buchanan said that commissioners Kelly Parks, Karl Peterjohn and Gwen Welshimer asked for a resolution to suspend performance standards for the raises.
Buchanan estimated that the move would cost the county $54,000. He said 77 employees out of 1,746 failed their performance evaluation at the end of 2008.
Welshimer said Monday that she had been under the impression that performance still would be a factor in determining whether someone making less than $75,000 got a 2 percent raise.
"But Kelly and Karl were under the other impression," that the raises would be across-the-board and not based on merit, she said. "I decided to go along with what they thought at the time because we may have employees who thought that, too."
Parks said he didn't realize performance would be taken into account.
"I thought everybody was going to get one," he said of the 2 percent raises.
Peterjohn agreed, noting that he had proposed a 1.5 percent increase this summer but couldn't get a second. A 1 percent raise for all employees would cost the county about $1 million; a 2 percent raise about $2 million.
Parks said his concern is for employees who may not have had raises in years. If they truly aren't performing well, he said, then they should be fired.
Peterjohn said he didn't yet know how he would vote.
Commissioners Tim Norton and Dave Unruh said they are against the resolution.
"I think it's a very bad idea to suspend all performance evaluations and to reward someone who is performing at minimum standards,'' Unruh said.
Norton said he doesn't want to see the county move away from performance-based raises.
"You hate to think you have any poor performers or marginal performers, but we're no different than any other business," Norton said. "But most people fall in the top of the bell."
Buchanan also has concerns about giving everybody raises regardless of performance.
"I don't know of any organization that gives automatic increases," he said.
Commissioners also voted earlier this year to freeze all salaries for employees who make $75,000 or more.