With little discussion and no vote, the City of Greensboro is beginning a drastic change in the way it compensates employees with the 2021-2022 budget.

According to the preliminary budget presentation on May 11, the city will begin the process of moving employees from a merit system to a step system where every employee on the same step is paid the same salary regardless of performance evaluations.

Councilmember Justin Outling said, “It’s encouraging mediocrity, period.”

He said no evidence has been presented by the Human Resources department that the city was having difficulty attracting and retaining employees, except in public safety.  But the police and fire departments are already on a step program, so the change won’t affect them.

When asked if the City Council ever voted to go to the step system, Outling said, “No.  We never voted.  We never offered that direction.”

He added, “There was never a consensus.”

According to Outling, this was something that Mayor Nancy Vaughan and several councilmembers wanted and they bypassed the rest of the City Council.

Outling said, “What staff did apparently is respond to what the mayor and certain councilmembers want.”

He said, “Outside of election year politics, I don’t know why they would do it.”

Outling said that in his opinion the change to the step system would cause Greensboro to lose the employees with “excellent performance.”  He said those employees would be recruited to work somewhere that rewarded employees that do a superior job and that there were several such cities within an easy commute of Greensboro.

He said, “I think we should be encouraging superior performance and paying for superior performance.”

Under the current merit system, a certain percentage is set aside in the budget for raises.  That money is divided up and raises are awarded on the basis of an employee’s performance evaluation.  A good evaluation should result in a higher raise than an employee with a poor evaluation.

Under the step program all raises regardless of performance will be the same.

Councilmember Sharon Hightower has been pushing for the step system for years, but the City Council has never held a work session or a meeting to look at data and discuss what it would cost, or more importantly if it is the direction the majority of the City Council wants to go.