By Greg Ellison
(Aug. 8, 2019) Supporting payroll and benefit costs without raising property owners’ annual assessments is the intent of a roughly $50,000 comprehensive compensation study approved by the Ocean Pines Association with New York-based Sibson Consulting.
Earlier this month, the Ocean Pines Association Board of Directors voted 6-0 to permit General Manager John Viola to negotiate terms for the study, which is anticipated to cost between $48,000 to $51,000 and will focus on employee pay scales and benefit costs.
The board of directors’ approval also specified the contract should cost under $100,000 and would analyze all positions and salaries.
The study will include an external salary survey, including benefits, along with developing a compensation viewpoint and implementation strategy.
Ocean Pines Association Director Colette Horn said although the study was initially slated to cost $25,000, the higher price was deemed appropriate because of the scope of proposed services.
“The consultant will be helping Ocean Pines develop a strategy for making any compensation adjustments needed, based on their findings and based on upcoming changes to minimum wage,” she said. “They will be providing us with tools to set and adjust compensation such that we will be able to forecast payroll and benefit costs more than a year at a time.”
The contract terms, which were agreed to last Wednesday, contain multiple phases intended to establish a custom survey outlining salaries and benefits pay practices.
Sibson Consulting’s analysis will include up to 30 specified job titles, which will be distributed to up to a dozen HOAs and municipalities to compare pay scales and benefit packages.
The comparative data will be compiled in a report used to develop salary ranges and benefits packages that can be enacted without significant increases to annual property assessments, association officials said.
The final element of the study will include a presentation to the Ocean Pines Association Board and residents.
Sibson will begin the study this Wednesday and anticipates wrapping up by the end of October, which will allow the results to be factored with the fiscal 2021 budget.
“We want a comprehensive, benchmarked evaluation, by position, with a review of job descriptions and compensation ranges including a minimum, maximum and midpoint,” Viola said. “It has to be a complete, comprehensive analysis of our compensation package – and not just salary.”
The study will provide transparency for both homeowners paying property assessments and OPA employees, Viola said.
“It’s also important to make sure we’re paying everybody fairly and that we have the proper package to attract the proper talent,” he said.
Despite the increased cost, Viola said the budget would not be negatively affected because of prior year surpluses.
Assisting Viola with the contract negotiations were board members Horn, Jeff Knepper and Frank Daly, Operations Director Colby Phillips, Finance Director Steve Phillips, Golf Director John Malinowski, Budget and Finance Committee Chairman Larry Perrone, former board member Tom Terry, and Executive Secretary Michelle Bennett.
Bennett said the study would likely be a boon for both employees and residents.
“As the employees received benefit cuts and no pay increases this year, it was not an easy decision to spend this money,” she said. “However, the community and the employees deserve a study we can all believe in.”
Terry said it is vital for the Ocean Pines Association to have a clear understanding of employees’ compensation packages.
“This is especially true since major adjustments have been made recently, which have destabilized long established norms,” he said. “Updates need to be made to assure we have a competitive compensation package, while meeting the financial capabilities of the OPA.”
According to Daly, the study was required to rectify two previous studies that reached conflicting conclusions.
“One shows nobody being overcompensated, while the other shows about 10 percent of the employees being overcompensated,” he said. “One study does not include the police department and one does not consider similar positions in other Maryland or Eastern Shore HOA’s.”
Daly said neither of the earlier studies account for the high percentage of seasonal employment in the region.
“Neither present an ‘in-depth’ analysis of the employee benefit package, nor compares them to other Eastern Shore benefit packages,” he said. “Although both studies say some employees are underpaid, there are inconsistencies as to who and how much.”