UPDATE, 11/15: County Manager Mike Ruffin responded this morning to let us know the 31-percent raise for commissioners' clerk Michelle Parker-Evans was awarded after she obtained a two-year professional certification for clerks, which she didn't have when she was originally hired. "This certification was factored in to her recent raise and is one of the reasons the increase is so significant," Ruffin said in an email Tuesday.
UPDATE, 11/14: Durham County provided detailed salary information late Monday afternoon, which shows the salary increases commissioners approved for five top-level county administrators (as mentioned by County Manager Mike Ruffin in the earlier story).
According to the interview with Ruffin, the following raises were awarded by county commissioners, based on analyses of what people in similar jobs in other municipalities were making. The salary increases, which all took place on the first day of the fiscal year, July 1, 2011, included a 31-percent raise for the commissioners' clerk:
— Durham County Sheriff Worth Hill, increase of $5,189 for a total salary of $127,279, a 4.25-percent raise (Hill is now retired. Salary information for his replacement, Mike Andrews, was not immediately available.)
— Register of Deeds Willie Covington, increase of $7,693 to salary of $119,693, about a 7-percent raise
— Clerk to the Board of County Commissioners Michelle Parker-Evans, increase of $19,313 for total salary of $80,313, a 31-percent raise
— County Attorney Lowell Siler, increase of $9,154 for total salary of $164,154, a 6-percent raise
— Tax Administrator Kim Simpson, increase of $7,074 to total salary of $104,574, a 7.25-percent raise
Market-rate adjustments are necessary to keep experienced employees from leaving Durham County for similar positions in other counties with better salaries, Ruffin said last week. All of the county's 1,800 employees will be eligible for merit-based raises when they have their annual reviews between now and June 30, 2012, Ruffin said. They will also be eligible for market-rate increases in the spring when a comparative study is complete, he said. The market-rate increases are the same, in theory, as the raises given to the top managers, as listed above.
The county on Monday also provided salary information for other department heads, some of whom also received raises this fiscal year as part of an annual review:
— Director of General Services Motiryo Keambiroiro received a $4,505 increase in August for a total salary of $110,505; this represents a 4.25-percent increase
— Director of Budget and Management Services Pam Meyer received a $4,869 raise in July for a total salary of $119,435; this represents a 4.25-percent increase
— Director of the Criminal Justice Resource Center Gudrun Parmer received a $4,082 increase in July for a total salary of $100,132; this represents a 4.25-percent increase
— Veteran Services Officer Louis Washington received a $2,205 increase in August for a total salary of $54,076; this represents a 4.25-percent increase
Original post: Durham Republicans criticize county manager's 10-percent raise
The Durham Republican Party issued an open letter Friday to county commissioners, asking the board of all Democrats to rescind the 10-percent raise they awarded County Manager Mike Ruffin on Monday, saying the raise is a "slap in the face of every Durham County citizen" because of the state of the economy and unemployment.
Ruffin had no comment on the criticism. Durham commissioners stood behind their 4-to-0 decision to boost Ruffin's salary from $179,000 a year to $197,000. The fifth board member, Commissioner Joe Bowser, was not present for the vote but expressed his support for Ruffin, his colleagues said.
"I’ll see what they have to say," Vice Chairwoman Ellen Reckhow said of the Republican Party's request. But, she added, "The past three years have been extremely stressful and difficult years for the manager. And he has actually managed the county extremely well in terms of moving us forward at a time when resources were tight, trying to find efficiency in the government. We felt that, as point person for this difficult time, he has led us very well and that he deserved an adjustment."
Raises for other department heads
Ruffin's raise is the most recent in a series of salary adjustments for several top-level county employees appointed by the board since the beginning of the 2011-12 fiscal year. Commissioners made the pay raises after requesting a market analysis of the going rates for similar positions in July, Ruffin said Friday.
Since July, the register of deeds, sheriff, county attorney, tax administrator and clerk to the board of commissioners all have received pay increases based on the analysis of about a dozen other jurisdictions, Ruffin said. (Exact percentages and figures were not immediately available, but will be posted here as soon as they are made available to the Indy.) The pay increases were the result of two factors—both the market analysis, as well as the employees' annual performance evaluations, which all occurred in June, Ruffin said.
In Ruffin's case, his performance evaluation and market-rate adjustment happened this week because it was the annual anniversary of his employment with Durham County, where he became manager in 2000.
Ruffin and all other county employees and commissioners have had their pay frozen since 2008. Employees became eligible for salary hikes when the new fiscal year began on July 1. This year, employees will again be eligible to receive a 3.25- to 4.25-percent raise based on whether they met or exceeded expectations, Ruffin said. Employees will be eligible for those raises after annual performance evaluations which occur near their anniversary dates.
The percentage increase was a point of attack for Theodore Hicks, Republican Party chairman, who pointed out in the Friday letter the margin between Ruffin's 10-percent hike and the lower percentages other employees could receive.
"Neither the peer evaluation data nor the performance evaluation justify a 10% raise," Hicks wrote of Ruffin's raise, "even in a thriving economy." (Click on the chart at left for peer evaluation data from the county's human resources department.)
Michael Page, chairman of the county commissioners, said Friday that he is comfortable with the board's decision.
"I will be more than glad to bring it up with our board," Page said. "But I'm not going back on my vote. ... The economy is tough. It's tough for all of us right now, but if we're going to try to keep the manager and maintain the level of services he has initiated, then we had to, at this time, compensate him."
Raises on the way for rank-and-file
County employees will have an additional shot at a pay increase next year, Ruffin said. The county's human resources department is awaiting a broader market analysis of the salaries for all of the county's 1,800 employees and how they compare across a dozen other jurisdictions, Ruffin said. A similar study was completed in 2005. The county was due for a similar evaluation in 2008, Ruffin said, but he put it on hold when salaries were frozen.
"I had no idea it would be three years," he said of the pay freezes.
The study will be complete in the spring, around budget time, and county leaders will determine which other employees deserve more money compared to their peers in other counties, Ruffin said. When market-rate adjustments are made, they could be in addition to any merit-based raises the employees are awarded after their annual reviews.
"Top to bottom, we do our business equitably across the board for everyone," Ruffin said.
Commissioners got bump, too
Commissioners also approved a 4.25-percent raise for themselves in July. There was no separate discussion by the board, Reckhow said. The raises were part of the budget, and usually included by the county manager, she said.
"We treat ourselves like employees," Reckhow said. "For the years that no one got a raise, we didn't get a raise."
Page now is eligible to receive $23,282 annually as chairman, up from $22,333 last year, according to a county memo. All other commissioners are eligible to receive $19,777 annually. Bowser, is eligible for $9,507 annually. He is ineligible for additional salary because he receives federal disability benefits, she said.