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Compensation study approved

Ocean Pines Board members last Saturday debate a compensation study related to employee payroll and benefits.

By Josh Davis, Associate Editor

(March 14, 2019) With the approval of the fiscal 2020 budget, Ocean Pines board members realigned employee health care packages, with employees set to pay 20 percent of costs and the association covering the remaining 80 percent.

Previously, the association paid 100 percent of those costs.

Association President Doug Parks said Saturday the next logical step of that process would be a compensation study to bring employee salaries in line with surrounding communities.

The directors voted 5-0 to issue a request for proposals “for the purpose of conducting a compensation study for all association employees.” Two directors, Esther Diller and Ted Moroney, were not present during the vote.

Frank Daly, in introducing the motion, said the purpose would be “to establish wage and benefits guidance comparable to similar positions within Worcester and adjacent counties on the Eastern Shore.”

“Over the past two budget periods, compelling evidence has been presented that indicates a structural problem with the wages and benefits offered by the association,” Daly said. “This evidence indicates that in some cases the wages may by above what would be expected on the Eastern Shore; in other cases the wages may be below what would be expected.”

He said there was evidence employee health care benefits “show similar inconsistencies.”

“The purpose of this study will be to develop wage ranges for each position and benefits that are comparable both in coverage and cost to those offered on the Eastern Shore for similar positions,” Daly said.

Director Slobodan Trendic said the board inherited the problem and was “trying to address it in a fair, objective and transparent way.”

However, he added several pay studies had been done in recent years, including one turned in last year by a human resources specialist no longer employed by the association.

“I’m trying to figure out, what do we do as a board here? Spend another $20,000 for another study? … Once you get the results, are you going to have the will and the power to address it in a way that needs to be addressed?” he asked.

“As the old saying goes, ‘Don’t ask for something that you’re not willing to deal with or to implement,” Trendic continued. “As [Daly] said, not only do you have some positions that are underpaid, but you also have some positions that are overpaid – and you know how you deal with that problem.”

He said the motion was well intentioned, but the association was “in a transition period with a lot of moving parts,” and might be better served by using existing information.

“Let’s look at the employees that are most impacted. Let’s look at the total compensation package … and let’s do it in small steps,” Trendic said. “I think [a solution is] going to be gradual. I would be more in favor that we take that approach … and then revisit this if there is a need.”

Director Colette Horn argued the motion was not so much a retread and had been recommended by the association budget and finance committee.

“They pointed out that we do need to look at our compensation package,” she said. “This isn’t a pay study. This is not what was done several years ago [and] it’s not what was done by our HR specialist in this past year. This is a broader look.

“To be discussing this as a pay study is an incorrect approach,” Horn continued. “What I believe Director Daly is asking for is a compensation study that looks at the entire package and I support that. I think we need that at this point.”

Parks agreed.

“Go back to the decisions we made with the upcoming budget, where we changed the health benefits package. We are now asking the staff to burden more of their income to pay for the health care benefits,” he said.

“We’re not talking about a pay study, we’re talking about a compensation study,” Parks continued. “I think we owe it as a follow-on decision to the staff and to the association to conduct this to make sure we are in alignment … with best practices, business standards and those kinds of things.

“I’m in favor of it, because … I think it’s just part of the responsibility we had when we took on the notion of changing the benefits package for our staff,” he said.