Metra compensation study sparks questions
While a lengthy PowerPoint on an employee classification and compensation study might lull some officials into a slight doze, a presentation Friday by Metra had the opposite effect on one board director.
Metra Director and former Kane County Board chairman Mike McCoy questioned the money being spent on the report, asked why the work couldn't be performed in-house and was skeptical about assurances the effort was not "a salary-increase study."
Metra is paying Arizona-based Public Sector Personnel Consultants $100,000 to review nonunion employee job descriptions and see if they're current, compare worker wages to those in other commuter rail agencies and report on whether salary increases are necessary.
Metra executives have been at pains to say the report doesn't guarantee raises and could result in pay adjustments that are downward.
But McCoy was dubious, noting this was the fifth compensation report he'd experienced as a public official and saying he hoped one day he'd sit on a board where consultants found employees were overpaid.
"I'd rather see the consultants' money go to raises," McCoy said. "I do not feel we need this much outside help." He also asked that benefits such as pension and health insurance be taken into account.
HR Director Gail Washington told McCoy hiring an outside consultant for such a study was "industry best practice. You need an objective neutral study."
CEO Alex Clifford said the study was recommended by Metra auditors and noted "it's not about executive compensation — we're not including executives in this — it's about everybody else."
The comments, McCoy later jokingly referred to as a "rant," sparked other queries.
Director Jack Schaffer of Cary questioned why the agency was focusing on nonunion employees, who form just one-quarter of Metra's workforce. "I'm frustrated with the time, money and effort spent on 25 percent of our employees," he said.
Director and Arlington Heights Mayor Arlene Mulder agreed with McCoy on benefits being included in the study. "In the public sector, typically there is a better benefits package than in the private sector," she said. "If you have a family with a lot of people — there's a value to those benefits."
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