MENOMINEE — The county’s Personnel Committee on Thursday supported an increased pay level for a new position in the Equalization Department that was recommended by a wage classification study, but not as high as the department head requested.

Peggy Schroud, equalization director, told the committee she did not agree with the recommendation that the position in her department be classified as a Grade 10.

“I requested that my employee, Kandace Curran, be named deputy director and followed through with all the DMG study and it came back that DMG recommended it be a Grade 10,” Schroud said.

“However, I was not able to compare the … they said the deputy director is a Grade 12 … and they said they compared the duties for Grade 10 and Grade 12, but I was unable to get a copy of the Grade 12 description, so I’m not aware of where the differences lie.”

Michigan law gives her the ability to designate a deputy, she told commissioners, and she completed all of the paperwork detailing Curran’s job responsibilities. Schroud said she believed that the responsibilities would qualify Curran for a higher grade level.

“Kandace is performing the same duties as I am, as well as completely the duties of the staff cartographer,” Schroud said. The staff cartographer position was eliminated when Curran was hired and the employee in it took a job in another department.

Schroud said Curran can do everything she does, except sign the tax roll, because she is not yet state certified.

“I’m leaving it up to you to direct what you would want to do,” she said to commissioners.

The county had a 2000 job description for a deputy director, Schroud said, which listed it as a Grade 12, but no salary was included. The Finance Committee has already put  Grade 10 level salary in the 2014-2015 budget for the new position in her office, she added.

Commissioner Doug Krienke asked if the DMG study provided just a recommendation to the board.

County Administrator Brian Bousley explained that DMG studies are done to allow a third party to look at the job duties and compare them to other positions, “so there isn’t any fighting back and forth; there is no favoritism. But it is the recommendation to the board – the board can do something else.”

Bousley said he believes that the county should follow the recommendations of the DMG study when the county requests it.

Schroud interjected that, if the position was elevated to Grade 12, it would be a nonunion position. The position the county approved in her office for staff appraiser, is a union position.

Commissioner Chris Plutchak, chairman of the committee, said he was not aware of that potential change from union to nonunion. “I don’t see that anywhere in here,” he said of the documents he was given.

Bousley said going to a Grade 10 would be a 4.5 percent increase from the previous position. “If we go to an 11, is about 11 percent increase, so 12 would be even higher than that.”

“Is there any benefits of the 12 being a nonunion position in this instance?” Plutchak asked Bousley.

“No, the only thing is … that position is already vested. If it was nonunion, it would be moved to the (new division),” he said.

Plutchak asked what the grade was of the position Curran replaced, and was told it was Grade 7. He said he thought it was higher, based on information Schroud put in a letter she wrote to commissioners, but it was pointed out that Schroud used incorrect information in the letter when she used the administrative assistant’s pay grade (saying it was Grade 11, when it is a 9) as an example.

Schroud didn’t explain her mistake, but  said she should have included information that the advanced certification and training of the individual is what “makes the difference. I’m not sure the DMG study realizes the importance.”

Bousley asked if there was anything in DMG study that differed between the deputy director and the director positions, and Schroud said it was only the ability to sign the roll, which requires a Level 3 certification.

Curran has signed up to take the training, and Schroud said Thursday she will pay for the education out of her budget.

Piche said he believes the county should accept the recommendation from the study. “I think at this point, it’s really important to go along with their thoughts.”

“My thoughts are … we do the study for a reason, we follow the study … there’s no reason not to follow the study now,” Plutchak said.

“That is the pertinent point, I think, is why hire this company to do these things if we’re not going to … but do the people that these outfits like this know all the underlying circumstances?” asked Krienke.

“That this person has, through her own initiative, gone out and gotten the education necessary to make the transition into a very important department almost seamless? There’s some merit in that, too.”

Bousley said that Schroud did all the work on the form, “so whatever Peggy filled out was sent in.” It was pointed out that the job description was submitted without a title, either of staff appraiser or deputy director.

“This is all from Peggy, not from us,” Bousley said.

Bousley said another study could be done if duties change – something that has been requested in other departments that have shifted job responsibilities with other employees when positions were eliminated.

The committee recommended the position of staff appraiser, at Grade 10, be presented to the board at its next meeting, which is scheduled for Tuesday in Hermansville.

During public comment, Prosecuting Attorney Dan Hass and County Treasurer Diane Lesperance indicated their objections to the committee’s decision.

“When the county claimed it was suffering in financial straits, I had an employee leave who was full time and to help the county out, I agreed to fill that position with a three-quarter time position,” Hass. “It saved the county a heck of a lot of money.

“Now today, I sit here at a Personnel Committee meeting, and I see that the recommendation – in light of the hiring freeze – is to increase a person’s job classification from a 7 to a 10. My question is why wasn’t this thought out months ago, when the person was moved into the position? Why is it coming up now, when the person is in the position?

“To me, that’s shortsightedness either by the county board or the department head who put that person in the position, because what’s changed from then until now?”

Hass also had concerns the decision will affect the retirement contribution. “I have an understaffed department and there’s a hiring freeze and I look at another department where there’s basically a change in a job description that without approval of a job description  - which should have happened.”

Lesperance echoed Hass.

“I agree with what Dan said as far as the impact here. I think this is going to affect the morale around the courthouse,” she said. “I have staff that has been in their positions for a long time. If you compare their positions, their jobs with other areas of the county – I think their grades are way below what they should be.

“I looked over this DMG questionnaire and there are things that are checked off for the position that I feel are not that person’s position. I see some of them that are the equalization director’s job and I can’t see how someone at a Level 2 can do these things. I have an issue with that,” Lesperance said.

Piche said the board may have some thinking to do about the request, given the comments from Hass and Lesperance.

Krienke said he recalled emails Schroud sent to commissioners some months ago, saying she wanted a pay increase for the position. Schroud concurred she had sent out the information.

“I don’t know that it was necessarily out of the blue,” Krienke said.