Cut Education But Give Pay Bonuses?

Cut hundreds of millions out of crucial things like Education and then pay $2 million in bonuses to state workers? And that doesn’t even count the unclassified workers, the appointees and other highest paid. Is this the Legislature you want? – Russ Wise

Extra state pay reported

$2 million in awards, bonuses

Marsha Shuler
Advocate capitol news bureau

State government spent about $2 million last budget year for one-time cash awards or pay raises to 1,600 rank-and-file state employees.

The extra pay — mostly one-time cash awards — went to about 3 percent of the state’s 54,000 classified employees during the fiscal year that ended June 30, according to a new report published by the state Department of Civil Service.

Agencies across state government took advantage of special programs to provide the increases at a time when state employees are going a second year without a pay raise and employee ranks are shrinking.

None of the programs allow employees to receive more than 10 percent of their base pay as a one-time reward or increase in employee pay.

Civil service Deputy Director Jean Jones said Tuesday agencies can only use the programs if they have funds available.

Fewer employees got the extra pay, and less money was spent on the rewards last budget year than in the previous fiscal year, according to the civil service report.

For instance, 38 percent fewer employees received the one-time cash awards through the “rewards and recognition” program. And 41 percent fewer workers got additional base pay for getting advanced degrees, according to the Civil Service report.

The report only reflects what has happened in the classified employee ranks.

“We do not know what’s happened in the unclassified service,” which covers another 34,000 employees, Jones said.

Unclassified employees include political appointees as well as higher education professors and people who work at the state’s public hospitals and medical schools.

The state Division of Administration did not respond Tuesday to a question about whether the Jindal administration keeps a similar report that would tally cash awards and pay boosts given the unclassified workers.

The civil service extra pay programs allow agencies to better do the business they are required to do, Jones said.

Agencies are not required to use the programs but they can use it to their advantage in many situations, she said.

Three different programs yielded the extra employee pay.

e_SBlt “Rewards and Recognition”: 1,117 employees received $783,782. The employees worked at 52 different agencies.

One of them was a Louisiana State Employees Retirement System employee who received a one-time cash award for the performance of an “outstanding audit” that resulted in the recoupment of more than $1 million owed the agency.

An Office of Culture, Recreation and Tourism employee created an on-line media assistance kit so that the $20,000 job did not have to be contracted out.

Several agencies rewarded employees who earned “certified first responder” status.

e_SBlt “Optional pay”: 446 employees, $1.2 million cost. The employees worked at 71 agencies.

The program allows lump sum payments or base pay increases to compensate employees for assuming additional job duties, to retain employees who have private sector higher pay job offers, or to recruit employees to hard-to-fill jobs.

Lump sum payments went to 183 employees and base pay adjustments went to another 263.

Jones said an agency may have had personnel vacancies but work still needs to be done. So officials may opt to pay someone a little more to get the job done than hire another full-time employee.

Or, for instance, the state Department of Environmental Quality might have a chemist it wants to keep who has been offered a higher-paying private sector job.

• Attainment of advanced degree payments: 20 employees, $90,589. Seven agencies granted the payments.

The Civil Service rule allows agencies to make a base pay award of up to 10 percent of an employee’s salary for attaining a job-related master’s or Ph.D. degree.

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