Compensation Redesign Plan

Alicia Trahan, a state Civil Service compensation consultant, explains Friday, Aug. 4, 2017, the new “Compensation Redesign Plan” for paying state workers at the Galvez Office Building in Baton Rouge. 

Advocate Photo by Mark Ballard

State employees are receiving pay raises, many for the first time in a decade, as part of a new compensation system being rolled out by the state Civil Service Commission over the next few weeks.

The state employed 39,687 classified civil servants as of July 28 and nearly all will receive a 2 percent across the board increase on Jan. 1, 2018. The last overall adjustment to civil service pay scales happened in July 2007, under Gov. Kathleen Blanco.

About 6,200 employees – including entry level correctional officers, probation and parole officers and child welfare specialists – will receive an additional pay bump on Jan. 2 as the state moves to bring lower paid employees up nearer to private market rates. State workers making less than the newly established minimums on pay schedules will be raised up to meet that rate.

The schedules have been around for awhile. But the revised “occupational pay schedules,” which has six levels, is an important part of the new compensation system aimed at keeping public employee salaries somewhat closer to what private employers pay for similar jobs. The shift is in response to the lag – up to 28 percent in some cases – between what public employees make and what private workers earn.

In addition, segments of the classified workforce have had stagnant salaries due to pay freezes and withholding of performance adjustments over the past eight years. Employees in some agencies, however, received the adjustments for scoring “successful” or higher on subjective performance evaluations. This led to similar types of employees receiving different pay, according to the Civil Service Commission.

As part of the new plan, Civil Service is jettisoning, starting Oct 1, the existing system that bases salary increases on performance evaluations.

The traditional merit increase doesn’t fit with the new market-based pay philosophies, Civil Service Director Byron P. Decoteau Jr. said in a video describing for state employees what the new “Compensation Redesign Plan” entails.

Pay for exceptional performance will still be available, but will be awarded by the agencies as lump sum bonuses not to exceed $2,500 starting July 1, 2018.

Decoteau testified during a recent legislative session that all these factors caused an immense number of state employees to leave their jobs. The new compensation plan attempts to address high turnover and improve retention of classified employees.

Some agencies reported seeing a 200 percent turnover rate. Rehiring, retraining and covering the cost of covering services without full staffs cost the state about $114 million.

Some Republican legislators balked at raising pay for state workers.

The price tag is $15 million because of the way the new system is being rolled out during the current fiscal year, which began July 1. That amount will grow to $48 million when raises are annualized in future budgets.

The Legislature agreed to the increases when it approved the state operating budget earlier this year.

Gov. John Bel Edwards said he expects the new pay package will end up saving the state money by shrinking turnover.

“This compensation redesign has been a long time coming for the hard working public servants in our state,” Edwards said in June when he signed the legislation. “Pay increases in state government have been inconsistent and unfair, with some state employees receiving adjustments while others have not.”

In addition to handouts and a website, Civil Service has dispatched human resources consultants to talk one on one with state employees at their place of work.

About 150 state employees showed up at the Galvez Building in downtown Baton Rouge on Friday afternoon to talk with the specialists, said Alicia Trahan, a Civil Service compensation adviser sitting at a table as state workers queued up. The consultants were able tap into employee records and tell them individually how much their pay bump will be.

Friday was the third day that civil service teams visited state office buildings to explain the new compensation redesign plan to individual employees. On Monday they will be in the lobby of the Iberville Building, where the Office of Children and Family Services is located in downtown Baton Rouge. On Tuesday they cross Fourth Street to the Bienville Building, which is home to the Louisiana Department of Health. The Department of Insurance is visited on Wednesday and the State Capitol Annex is on Thursday's schedule.

Civil Service advisers will continue to meet state employees individually as they visiting state office buildings every day until Aug. 31.

Follow Mark Ballard on Twitter, @MarkBallardCnb.