The Leavenworth County Commission Monday approved a move toward a merit-based system for its employees’ salary increases.

The Leavenworth County Commission Monday approved a move toward a merit-based system for its employees’ salary increases. The move comes following a discussion last week and what County Administrator Pat Hurley called “months” of work from staff to come up with a recommendation. In the fiscal year 2013 budget, the commission set aside about $440,000 for salary treatments, the equivalent of a 3 percent across-the-board increase, though at the time they did not specify a method by which to distribute that increase. According to Diane Collins, the county’s director of human resources, the staff recommendation was to institute a 1-percent baseline increase, plus additional increases for those who meet higher criteria on performance evaluations. According to a briefing report on the proposal, those who score between zero and .9 on the two-point scale of their performance evaluation will receive no increase whatsoever. Anyone who scores up to 1.7 on the evaluation, or “meets standards,” will receive 2 percent; those who score from 1.8 to 2 at the top of the scale, or “exceptional,” will receive a 3-percent increase. Hurley said those who score below expectations or as exceptional will be discussed by a committee comprised of Collins, Hurley and the respective department manager. Collins said the baseline increases would be instituted starting Jan. 30 and the remaining merit increases would first be issued midyear instead of on that employees’ anniversary to ensure that the increases are distributed fairly. Commission Chairman John Flower pushed during the previous budget setting process that the commission consider a merit-based pay system. He again made his case Monday. “We know we have problems with our existing salary structure,” he said. “We’ve got people that have been in grade for an extended period of time but because we’ve had across the board increases, they might make a little more money, but they’re not making any more money in relationship to their peer group than they were the day they started.” Commissioner Clyde Graeber, however, said he thought the commission ought to take more time to study and consider their options. “On this particular issue on this late date, I do not concur with what you’re trying to do,” he told Flower. Flower said the commission had discussed and studied it not only this year, but in the past. Hurley said the idea of merit-based salary increases had been discussed recently with most of the county’s department mangers. “The general response has been favorable,” he said. Graeber also warned that he thought a 1-percent increase was not going to amount to much. “Everything is going up,” he said, including food and gas prices. “And 1 percent isn’t going to cover any of it.” Flower, however, countered that the system leaves it to the employee to strive for a higher increase. Commissioner Bob Holland seconded Flower’s motion to institute the new merit increase policy. The motion passed, 2-1, with Graeber opposed.