Patterson: Time for a Salary Overhaul

Salaries for non-union Oakland County employees will be more competitive in the current labor market if the board of commissioners adopts the new salary administration plan County Executive L. Brooks Patterson proposes in his balanced budget recommendation for fiscal years 2020-2023. The county implemented its current salary administration plan over 33 years ago and Patterson says it’s time for a significant revision.

“As one of the largest employers within the county’s geographic boundary, it is critical for Oakland County as an organization to stay competitive in this tight labor market with unemployment so low,” said Patterson’s budget message, which county executive administration has presented to the board.

In December 2017, Oakland County Human Resources retained a consultant to conduct an overall compensation study. This study included a review of the market competitiveness of all non-union county job classifications. The recommended amount of salary adjustments will vary by classification and step placement within the salary range for each employee. Five of the eight county unions will be negotiating wages for fiscal 2020 and beyond and at this time are not included in the compensation study recommendations.

The preliminary cost to implement the new salary administration plan for non-union classifications is estimated to be $6.1 million. The cost is partially offset with funding available in the prior adopted budget which includes $2.4 million that was appropriated as a contingency amount for the potential impact on general fund/general purpose annual operations plus $1.6 million that was budgeted for a general salary increase in fiscal 2020. Net additional funding of approximately $2.1 million is required initially in fiscal 2020 for implementation, which increases base salaries on an ongoing basis.

With the pending implementation of a new salary administration plan, there will be a one percent general salary increase for fiscal 2020 with the compensation study implementation targeted for Jan. 1.

Patterson’s budget recommendation continues to look over the horizon to determine factors and future needs that may impact the county’s budget. Among these future needs is a new 105,00-square-foot building that will expand and improve the Oakland County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office 911 dispatch call center. It also will include a new law enforcement training facility.

“An enhanced, high-security new building is considered a top priority for the county executive’s administration,” Patterson’s budget message said.

The current sheriff’s dispatch center shares a building with the county’s homeland security division, which includes the EOC. There is no room to expand dispatch operations if the sheriff were to assume responsibilities for additional local communities. Plus, it is critical that the EOC and sheriff’s dispatch center remain adjacent to each other so they can coordinate complex communications in emergency situations which involve multiple communities and agencies. The preliminary cost estimate for the facility is $60 million. No funding source has been identified.

The Oakland County Sheriff’s Office 911 dispatch call center supports the 15 cities, villages and townships it patrols, Oakland County Parks and Recreation, the county’s animal control operations, 10 other local police departments and 19 local fire departments, and provides emergency medical dispatch for the city of Pontiac. It also serves as the designated back-up 911 answering point for six other dispatch centers. The sheriff’s dispatch center handles over a half-million calls annually. Contracted dispatch services as well as road patrol services have benefitted many local communities with significant cost savings.

The Water Resources Commissioner (WRC) has indicated that additional space is needed to support expanded operations. Increased responsibilities over the past decade include the acquisition of the city of Pontiac water and sewer systems and wastewater treatment plant, expansion of the WRC infrastructure asset management system and technical support and regional collaboration associated with the Great Lakes Water Authority.

Currently, the WRC’s primary operations are located in Oakland County’s Public Works Building, which is shared with Oakland County’s Department of Facilities Maintenance and Operations (FM&O). The project would include a new 12,000-square-foot, two-story office space addition with elevator and stairwell; a new 4,600-square-foot equipment building with 15,000 square feet of new paved outdoor yard area vehicle parking; renovations to 29,100 square feet of existing WRC office space; resurfacing and repairing 187,000 square feet of existing parking lot for vehicles and equipment; and more. The preliminary cost estimate for the project is $17.7 million. WRC says most of the costs would be charged back to ratepayers of the water and sewer systems.

The general fund/general purpose estimated revenue and appropriations are balanced at $476,867,745 for fiscal 2020; $486,399,474 for fiscal 2021; and $492,490,972 for fiscal 2022. The total budget is $924,103,085 for fiscal 2020; $932,525,565 for fiscal 2021; and $939,223,917 for fiscal 2022. To review Patterson’s proposed balanced budget, go to  OakGov.com/mgtbud/fiscal and click on the link “FY 2020 – FY 2022 County Executive Recommended Budget.

For media inquiries only, please contact Bill Mullan, Oakland County media and communications officer, at 248-858-1048.