TOPEKA — Seven of 10 classes of Kansas government employees were paid below mid-market rates based on a new survey examining salaries of comparable employers in the state and government employers across the country. state in Nebraska, Oklahoma, Missouri and elsewhere.
The Kansas Department of Administration report identified wage shortfalls of 32% for paralegals, 22% for social worker supervisors, 19% for driver’s license examiners, 13% for chemists, 9% for senior electricians, 7% for fire investigators, 3% for real estate appraisers and 1% for technology support consultants.
On the other hand, the survey comparing base salary in the Kansas state government to the averages of in-state employers and out-of-state government employers revealed instances in which Kansas had better salaries than the comparison sample. Kansas Highway Patrol master troopers were paid 30% more than their peers, while Capitol area guards received 27% more than their peers, and security and safety officers received 20% more.
Kraig Knowlton, director of personnel services in the Administration Department, told an interim committee of House and Senate members that there were three options for adjusting employee compensation.
He said there have been general increases, such as the 5% increase authorized by the 2022 legislature for most state employees. Kansas state workers could also get a raise by increasing a pay scale. If hired before June 2008, some were eligible for annual longevity bonuses of no more than $1,000. The other approach would be for lawmakers to target adjustments based on market forces, he said.
“Over the years,” Knowlton said, “the state has done a good job of doing one a year, sometimes two, but very, very rarely we do three.”
He said Kansas had 4,400 classified employees and 14,000 unclassified employees, excluding the state’s higher education system. Compensation for unclassified staff is usually decided by an agency’s supervisor. There is no mechanism in state law for an agency supervisor to award merit increases to classified personnel that distinguish between someone deemed excellent and the marginal worker meeting minimum expectations.
Sen. Marci Francisco, a Lawrence Democrat, said the state should address the scale of underpaid state government employees with a program that combines percentage adjustments for all with targeted dollar amounts for people at the bottom of the pay scale.
In other words, she said, the legislature needed to develop a more flexible approach to paying employees classified based on merit and longevity. She said the millions of dollars invested by lawmakers to boost Kansas Highway Patrol retention and recruiting was a worthy cause, but other essential state government employees had not received comparable treatment. in the political process.
“We know it has been difficult to fill positions within the Highway Patrol, but we also know that the number of caseworkers is increasing,” Francisco said.
Rep. Troy Waymaster, a Bunker Hill Republican who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, said he was baffled by the state government’s failure to embrace the methods of private industry that awarded raises based on performance.
“If you’re in the private sector, it’s based on your work and your performance. But when we talk about state government, we just give everyone 5% coverage,” Waymaster said.
He said the general increases were not properly incentivizing the state government workforce. The 5% increase applicable to most state employees – some were exempt, including the KHP, because they received alternative pay enhancements – cost the state $145 million. In total, the 2022 Legislature has approved salary increases of $224 million for the current fiscal year.
“In the private sector, as a manager, you have these tough conversations with someone who’s actually overperforming and says, ‘You know what? You deserve a raise this year. Then you have to have a conversation with an employee who is underperforming and say, “Look, because of your results, you’re not going to get a raise this year,” Waymaster says.
Knowlton said the latest survey included one-third of jobs within the Kansas government structure. In Kansas, there are 350 different classified jobs and double the number of unclassified positions. The survey was sent to 450 public and private employers, and the Ministry of Revenue received 105 responses. The analysis considered base salary without including overtime pay.
Here’s an example: The salary of an Accountant III employed in 27 Kansas state government agencies averaged $24.55 per hour. The market rate of $32.23 for mid-level accountants reflected an average hourly rate of $31.83 among state employers and an average of $33.41 per hour on government payrolls states in Iowa, New Mexico, Wyoming and the four surrounding states of Kansas. The survey indicated that accountant IIIs in Kansas were underpaid by 24%.
“We target public and private employers across the state. We don’t focus on any particular geographic area,” Knowlton said.
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