For the first time in its history, the city of Greensboro has partnered with a public accounting and consulting firm to take a closer look at how much employees get paid through a pay equity study.

During a July 27 work session, the city’s People & Culture Director Jamiah Waterman told council members that they are working toward making the city “internally equitable” with the accountancy and advisory firm Baker Tilly. The People & Culture Department was previously known as the Human Resources Department.

In an email to Triad City Beat, Waterman wrote that the city has “not discovered any equity issues in regard to age, race or gender,” but that the study will help them uncover if there are any pay discrepancies between employees. Waterman added that the city is committed to paying employees “fairly and transparently.”

“If those differences cannot be explained by legitimate, nondiscriminatory business reasons the study will recommend appropriate corrective actions,” Waterman wrote. “The study will also help us to identify and remedy any compensation policies or practices that may have contributed to the pay discrepancies in the first place.” Waterman stated that it will also help the city prevent and mitigate legal risks, adding, “Most importantly, this pay equity study supports the city’s commitment to equity principles.”

Jada Kent, a representative for Baker Tilly, described the outline of the team’s project as they work to determine inequities in compensation during a presentation to council members and city officials. The team will work “hand-in-hand with the city,” Kent said, and collect a “whole bunch of documentation” in terms of what positions the city has, how those positions are defined, how they are compensated and who is in those positions, as well as policy handbooks and organizational charts. 

The team will analyze employee and pay data — both current and historical — compiled by the city with regard to starting pay, reclassification pay, merit/step increases and promotional pay. Kent said that they will examine how that pay is distributed relative to demographic information like gender, race and age, “to determine if we’ve got any disparities in how those policies have been administered.” 

The team will collect “every piece of data that we can get our hands on, and that includes some of that demographic data which is sensitive information,” Kent said during the presentation.

Kent added that this information would be collected from the city through a secure website and that they will not document or publish any employee specific information.

The current minimum wage for city workers is $18 per hour. The highest paid government employee is Greensboro Coliseum Managing Director Matt Brown, who racks up a $418,615 yearly salary according to data from Open Gate City, which includes current city employee salaries as of the close of the last pay period.

Kent said that they are looking at an August start date and estimate wrapping the project up and making their recommendations toward the end of the year, likely in November.

What could change?

Kent said that when they bring their recommendations back to the city, they may include adjustments to the city’s pay policies or pay practices, “maybe just in the way that they’re framed or the way that they’re applied.”

It may also include a clarification in the city’s compensation philosophy, Kent said, adding, “What do you believe about how employees should be compensated?” 

Kent also said that they may suggest one-time pay adjustments to make corrections.

An excerpt from Kent’s presentation reads: “While immediate adjustments can help achieve equity in the short-term, it’s critical to investigate and fix the root causes as well so you can ensure inequities don’t creep back in over time.”

“Doing a pay equity study speaks to the city’s commitment to pay equity of the person, and so these adjustments to your pay policies and practices are gonna really lend itself towards the long-term insurance of making sure you keep pace with that,” Kent said.

District 3 council member Zack Matheny inquired how much will be spent on the study, to which Waterman replied that the amount has not been set yet. 

“We know this is important work and so we’re committed to actually performing the work, but I don’t have a total cost or a not-to-exceed amount,” Waterman said. “If at any point in time we’re not getting our money for the value, then we’ll certainly make adjustments.” In an email to TCB, Waterman said that while they do not know the final costs, they believe that $50,000 is a reasonable estimate. 

Assistant City Manager Larry Davis said that this project has been estimated to take 150 hours. “The highest hourly charge for the various consultants who will be working on this is $375 an hour, so the top end of this will be approximately $56,000,” Davis said, adding that this range would only happen if every hour of work was done by the highest-paid consultant, “which won’t be the case.” 

In response to a question from District 5 representative Tammi Thurm, Davis confirmed that receiving the study’s results in November would allow sufficient time to build it into the following year’s budget.

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