Columbia managers likely to get raise Job reviews also probable

February 15, 1993|By Mark Guidera | Mark Guidera,Staff Writer

Employees of the Columbia Association, the nonprofit corporation that manages Columbia, are likely to get 4.1 percent performance raises when the association's $30 million budget takes effect May 1.

But they also appear headed for a top-to-bottom review of their jobs, including salaries, benefits and worker efficiency.

The Columbia Council, which oversees the association's budget and policies, is looking for an outside consultant to conduct the first such review in about six years.

Council members and community activists say the study could settle lingering questions about whether the association is overstaffed or over paid.

Council member Evelyn Richardson, who proposed the audit last week, believes an independent report would quell "misinformation and rumors" about the association's staffing costs.

"I think the study might very well show our personnel costs are very comparable to other governments or businesses in the area, maybe even a little lower," Ms. Richardson said.

At a Feb. 4 work session, the council asked Pam Mack, the association's vice president for community affairs, to obtain cost estimates by March 1 from independent consultants with experience in the field.

Columbia Association President Padraic Kennedy thinks the review would be beneficial.

"It's a good thing to do a review periodically," he said. "It serves CA well to make sure it can attract and retrain good workers and is not over paying."

He believes a review would show the association's 175 employees to be "an extraordinary group that is fairly compensated."

Alex Hekimian, president of the Alliance for a Better Columbia, a residents watchdog group that has been critical of the association's personnel costs, says the study "must be completely unbiased to be credible. CA can't be allowed to help direct it."

Council members want the study to compare the association's personnel structure, pay and benefits with other nonprofit groups and local private industry, but Mr. Hekimian says such comparisons would be inaccurate. He argues that the only credible comparison would be with Maryland cities of similar size to Columbia's 73,000 population.

"Nonprofit groups and private industry don't have the benefit of an annual assessment for part of their funding. The only real comparison would be small cities in Maryland, like Rockville."

Comparing the Columbia Association with county government would also be misleading, argues Mr. Hekimian, because the scope of county government is much broader than that of the association, which manages the city's recreation facilities and community programs.

Mr. Kennedy says the study should compare association job duties, pay and benefits with area governments and private and nonprofit sectors in the region.

He argues that the comparisons should be broad-based because the association is a quasi-governmental private organization and because it must compete for workers with governments and industry locally.

Pay scales of Columbia Association employees range from $6.50 an hour, or $13,520 annually, for entry-level maintenance workers, to $99,237, the top salary the association president could earn.

Those salaries compare closely with those in the Howard County government, where entry-level receptionists are paid $7.48 an hour and the highest possible salary is $98,164, which the county administrator could earn. Currently, the highest paid Howard employee is County Solicitor Barbara Cook, who earns $86,785. County Executive Charles I. Ecker makes $80,000 a year.

In fiscal 1991-1992, 80 percent of Columbia Association workers earned under $35,000, an association report showed. Six percent earned more than $50,000.

The association spends approximately 54 percent of its operating budget on salaries; the county government spends 63 percent.

Last spring Mr. Kennedy told his seven senior staff members that they should not expect to receive end-of-year bonuses, part of a budget austerity plan in reaction to the recession.

Those bonuses, averaging about 5 percent this fiscal year, would have ranged from $2,597 for Pam Mack, the vice president, community relations, to the $5,193 bonus Robert Goldman, the vice president, membership services, could have received.

To receive bonuses, which have been paid in recent years, senior staff members must exceed performance expectations, Mr. Kennedy said.

Mr. Kennedy, who makes $93,115, said he has not yet decided if top staff members will receive salary bonuses in the next budget year, which runs May 1 to April 30, 1994.

Though the council delayed raises for most association workers for one quarter this year, Mr. Kennedy's pay raise was not delayed by the council.

He is in line for a $6,975 bonus at the end of this fiscal year. The council usually gives the president a performance review in April and decides then whether to grant the bonus.

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