City workers receive bonus checks - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

City workers receive bonus checks

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February 15, 2006

Albany -- Forty-six percent of Albany's top performing city employees recently received $1,100 bonuses. That's on top of a cost-of-living raise all employees got this year.

But the way the city rewards its employees is changing.

A few months ago, all city employees from sanitation workers to department heads were evaluated. Supervisors ranked employees from ineffective to outstanding in several categories. Those rankings were then given a numerical value from 0 to 100. All employees who earned at least a 70 got a bonus.

Within minutes, Jared Warren goes from teaching lessons about fire safety, to driving the engine to the another fire. Fighting fires is a family tradition for this ten year AFD veteran. "Fourth generation firefighter," said Warren. "My great-granddad was killed in the line of service. My dad and granddad retired."

Warren was one of about 335 of the city's 730 employees who recently received a $1,100 bonus for their hard work and above average performance. "It makes you feel satisfied that you try to put for a little extra effort and your supervisor notices it, and pats you on the back, and says 'Keep it up.'"

But many employees didn't get the bonus because their latest job appraisal wasn't high enough, even though many weren't performing below standards.

City Manager Alfred Lott said, "Acceptable performance does not entitle you to a merit increases, merit pay, or pay for performance. That is a pay for exceptional performance."

Lott says a new pay for performance system, the city is now implementing, will take the subjectivity and bias out of job evaluations. Employees will soon meet with their supervisors and set up of list of specific goals and objectives for the year.

Those goals will be tracked throughout the year. "Then at the end of the year, they will receive a standard performance evaluation based on what was agreed to in January," Lott said. "That way if someone just doesn't like somebody, and let's say I want to get that person, they can't do it. That employee can say here were my objectives, I meet that goal and so I should get a better evaluation."

Then all employees will get a raise based on their level of performance. The one-time bonuses cost the city more than $415,000. That's more than commissioners first planned, but the city manager asked them for more money to cover the bonuses when he found out so many employees received great evaluations.

The city manager says next year's merit pay raises could cost the city more than $600,000-- money commissioners will have to work into an already tight budget.

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