As it turns out the third time is the charm and the Greensboro City Council by a 5-4 vote at the Tuesday, July 20 meeting approved the transition to a salary step plan for city employees.

The City Council had discussed the step plan at length at two previous meetings but had not held an official vote and had not reached a consensus, which is the method used to make decisions in council work sessions.

Currently city employees receive raises based on the merit system, where the amount of the raise is determined by their supervisors based on the employee’s evaluation.

Perhaps the third time is unfair because Councilmember Sharon Hightower said she has been pushing for this transition for seven years. 

The estimated $100,000 to start the transition was included in the manager’s recommended budget in May and in the higher budget passed by the City Council on June 15.  However, during the City Council budget work sessions and budget votes, the council could not make up its mind on whether to implement the step plan or stick with the merit system and agreed to delay the decision until after the budget was approved.

Staff lobbied as much as it could to continue using the merit system with the caveat that the staff would be glad to go with whatever system the City Council approved.  The Human Resources Department conducted a survey of the 1,100 employees who would immediately be affected by the council decision and 56 percent of the employees who responded stated a preference for the current merit system, only 22 percent were in favor the step system.

But despite what the employees wanted and despite the extra expense Councilmembers Hightower, Michelle Kennedy, Goldie Wells, Yvonne Johnson and Tammi Thurm voted in favor of the step plan.

In earlier discussions Thurm had spoken against the step plan and only agreed to support it with the caveat that next year the city could go back to the merit system.  Tuesday evening Thurm added another caveat she said she was not in favor of extending the step plan beyond the estimated 1,100 employees who will be placed on the step plan this year.

During a budget work session Human Resources Director Jamiah Waterman explained that the estimated $100,000 in cost was for raises for employees.  He said that all the employees on the same step will receive the same salary whereas now the salaries vary based on the merit raises employees have received.  Because no city employee will have their salary reduced, all the employees being placed on the step plan will receive a raise, some more than others, so that all employees on the same step will receive the same salary.  And going forward all employees on the same step will receive that same salary increases.