Porter County officials are planning to vote Tuesday on $1,500 across-the-board raises for all county employees. This reinforces the need for a human resources professional in county government.
The proposal, expected to be voted on by the Porter County Council today, was released just days ahead of the final budget hearing.
Worth noting is the 2014 county budget not only includes these raises but also uses $10 million in saved income tax revenue and hospital sale interest money to balance the budget next year and to cover a shortfall this year.
Our quibble is not with raises for government employees, because local government has a poor record for giving raises to employees over the past several years.
But local government also has a spotty record when it comes to the way human resources are managed. For county government, especially, having a large number of employees should mean having a human resources professional to address the needs of managing that workforce.
The across-the-board raises proposed in Porter County illustrate this point well.
The $1,500 proposed for each employee doesn't take into account job performance, which means employees aren't being given an incentive to excel in their jobs.
Employees should be offered motivation to serve customers well, whether that customer is a taxpayer or a fellow employee. That motivation can include extra time off -- although county employees are already well compensated in that regard -- but merit pay is putting your money where your mouth is.
Employees should be evaluated regularly and fairly, to give regular feedback on what they're doing well and ways they might improve.
Then raises should be doled out based on these results.
Doing this right requires the involvement of a human resources professional. The HR pro would also, of course, professionalize hiring, firing and other employment practices.
Across-the-board raises are convenient, but merit-based pay is smarter. Porter County needs professional advice on how to evaluate employees and administer raises.