BREC approves plan to raise pay of park system employees

The East Baton Rouge Parish Recreation and Park Commission has approved a plan to bring employee pay up to market rates, meaning salaries comparable to that of others doing similar work in similarly-sized cities.

Most BREC employees haven’t received raises in at least four years, and an outside consultant recently found that — across the board — employees of the parish’s much-lauded parks system aren’t paid what their peers in similar cities make.

The commission on Thursday gave unanimous support to a plan that will provide pay increases effective March 1 for employees furthest from the market rate. The commission also approved a plan to institute a merit-based pay raise system moving forward, with employee raises from 0 to 5 percent annually depending on job performance.

Employees who receive the market-based adjustment will be eligible for merit increases in a year. Others will be eligible for 3.3 percent merit raises if they receive “good” or “excellent” job evaluations effective July 1.

“We’re now able to take care of the employees who have been taking care of the community and its parks system,” BREC Superintendent Carolyn McKnight said. “This will allow us to keep and attract the best and the brightest.”

On the benefits side, BREC is reducing the number of “comp time” hours that employees can accrue, from 240 hours to 160. The system also is eliminating longevity pay, which is awarded to full-time employees with 10 or more years of continuous service, for new hires. Current employees of BREC will be grandfathered into the longevity pay structure.

McKnight said several recent efficiency efforts have freed up funding for system pay. Those have included fuel use changes that have saved about $50,000 and waste reductions that led to an estimated $150,000 decrease in landfill costs.

“Our goal is to invest in employees,” McKnight said, noting she wants to see some savings also put toward employee training and development.

BREC employees, on average, are paid 12 percent to 13 percent below competitive market rates, depending on their job classification, the Dallas Waters Consulting Group found in its analysis.

BREC workers who fall into the overtime-exempt category, including managers and supervisors, are paid an average 12.8 percent below market rates, according to the report. Nonexempt employees, which include custodians, tree trimmers, painters and other workers who are eligible for overtime pay, make about 13 percent less than the market rate.

And the system’s executives, including McKnight and department directors, are paid an average 12.3 percent below the market rate.