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Partial data was used to compare Bertie DSS salaries

To the Editor:

Despite your very encouraging headline “Bertie DSS Employees Make More” (News Herald, Sept. 3), we in the Bertie County Department of Social Services have a problem. We have lost 20% of our trained and valued employees in the last four years.

Replacing these professionals requires recruitment, training, and certification, a process which takes up to three years. In the interim, remaining employees must take up the slack.

We are proud of the fact that our Bertie County Commissioners are committed to doing their best to improve all aspects of life for the people of Bertie. However, it seems to us that several aspects of work done and salary paid to our workers were not accurately reflected in the Commissioners’ deliberations.

The Commissioners were using partial data to compare our DSS professionals to other counties, not to other County employees. The DSS has the largest number of full-time employees of any County department; has at present an entirely female staff and Director; and works the same 37.5 hours a week as do all Bertie County employees. Of course, they respond to DSS family crisis, anywhere, anytime in our very large county.

We are fortunate that DSS professionals now mirror the ethnic makeup of Bertie County, a balance we prize.

DSS staff play an essential role enriching Bertie financially. While most services provided by the County use taxes and fees to pay salaries and other costs, DSS generates revenue. DSS manages 40 different programs – like Medicaid and Food Stamps – which each year bring in over forty million dollars from State and Federal agencies. And 70% of DSS salaries are paid by those governments, not Bertie.

This vital financial input is maintained by the 48 DSS staff under the constant scrutiny of the North Carolina Department of Health & Human Services. Weekly reports on every application or change in benefits must be submitted to the state. If these records are not perfect, our clientele services are at risk.

This rigid evaluation by state authorities puts unique pressure on our employees. We want to keep them, especially after they are trained, certified, and effective. Over the last four years nine such promising employees have gone to DSS positions elsewhere. We want to keep them here!

We are not rewarding years of good effective service. Bertie County has eliminated both merit raises and “salary progression”. Anything besides cost-of-living increases must be specifically approved for each individual. In recent years, every single such request for DSS employees has been refused.

Based on past inequities, excellent employees with decades of service now earn little more than new colleagues. How can this build career satisfaction, sustained loyalty or any sense of being valued?

Our region is losing well trained teachers, DSS employees, and other professionals to larger counties or other states. It seems particularly counter-productive to try to pit the workers of one of our regional counties against the others in the matter of pay scales.

We need a fair way to reward career development and dedication. We must do this for retention of our hard-working DSS employees and for the benefit of the citizens of Bertie County.

Alfreida Jordan

Chair of the Board

Bertie County DSS

 

John L. Hill

Vice-Chair of the Board