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Glenn Hegar  ·  Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts

Session provides hot topics for conversation

Originally Published in Statewise Fall 2009

by Barbara Neyens and Joni Sager

As the dog days of summer roll on, agencies are busy assessing changes made by the 81st Legislature, Regular Session. But many state employees are thinking about one provision in particular: the $800 retention bonus. Who qualifies for it? When will it be paid? And will that be enough money to buy a plane ticket to a place that isn’t 100 degrees?

The burning questions

That last question is more appropriately directed to your travel agent, or maybe William Shatner. But the Comptroller’s office has answers to most of the other questions agencies and employees have.

The retention bonus will be paid to eligible employees in a lump-sum payment on Aug. 31, 2009. Federal taxes and withholdings will apply, but retirement and other benefit deductions will not be made. And eligible part-time employees will receive a pro-rata payment. For all the details, including information about who is eligible for the payment, see One-Time $800 Retention Bonus Payment for Certain Employees (FPP G.006).

Of course, the Legislature did quite a bit more than authorize the retention bonus. Other payroll and personnel changes include:

  • providing authority for a Roth 401(k) plan in the Texa$aver program,
  • pay raises for selected correctional and law enforcement personnel,
  • Employees Retirement System contribution and benefits design changes, and
  • a one-time $500 supplemental payment to all state retirees (subject to an attorney general opinion on its constitutionality).

Same job, new title

But have you heard about the changes ahead for the state’s microfilm camera operators? That is one of the 32 state job classifications that the Legislature deleted. According to the Simply Hired job search engine, microfilm camera operator jobs have decreased 80 percent nationwide since 2007.

The Legislature also took steps to address the disparity between the average state Financial Examiner III salary range and the average market pay for corresponding benchmark positions. The market average is $63,111, while the average state base pay is $47,898 as of the second quarter of fiscal 2008. With a market index of 0.83, the midpoint for this salary range is 17 percent less than average market pay. The General Appropriations Act bumps the salary group up to a higher minimum (from Salary Schedule B11 to B21).

Scouting the competition

Before each regular legislative session, the State Auditor’s Office (SAO) recommends changes to the state’s Position Classification Plan based on how competitive Texas is compared to the “going rate” for similar positions in the market. The Texas plan is fairly streamlined compared to other states, with about 900 job titles covering around 150,000 employees. Some executive positions are exempt, and the classification plan does not include higher education employees.

When it comes to market pricing, the SAO methodology includes surveying at least three sources to compare pay practices to the external market. Not all jobs are surveyed — just well-defined “benchmark” jobs that are common in the marketplace and strongly match state jobs in terms of duties, scope and responsibility. These ranges typically represent entry-, journey- and senior-level positions which are then compared to the various levels of state job classifications.

Although the SAO maintains the overall structure of the classification plan, state agencies determine an individual employee’s salary. According to the SAO, “Ideally, pay rates for employees within the same job classification should be distributed throughout the applicable salary ranges to accommodate different levels of skill and experience, as well as varying degrees of employee job performance.”

Not the same old story

The SAO recommendations adopted by the 81st Legislature include:

  • revising Salary Schedules A and B,
  • moving 395 job classifications to a higher minimum salary group,
  • adding 79 new job classifications, and
  • making other technical updates and changes, such as title changes and deletions.

These changes increase the share of state positions with salary ranges that compare favorably with the market from approximately 56 to 83 percent. The new plan also helps ensure a logical and distinct progression between pay levels, provides higher maximum salary rates and creates more consistency between Salary Schedules A and B.

“We ask agencies for their feedback on the plan, as well as for positions that may not be competitive in terms of pay,” says Christine Bailey, a senior classification analyst in the SAO. This go-round, 25 agencies submitted 87 requests for new job classifications, additional levels for current classifications and requests for higher minimum salaries. “The SAO also provides agencies with the draft recommendations, so they can provide us with more information and plan ahead.”

According to the SAO recommendations, no current employee should see a reduction in salary. Likewise, current state microfilm camera operators are not losing their jobs. Microfilm is still a going concern at the State Library and in academic settings. Those employees are being reclassified in the micrographics technician series, which is a broader category.

Glenn Hegar
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts
Questions? Contact statewide.accounting@cpa.texas.gov
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