CORNELIUS – Town Manager Andrew Grant said most organizations don’t like to expose their deficiencies, but for him, the town’s lack of a human resources director is one of them. And Cornelius has several pending cases that he believes prove it.
Grant is advocating for the new full-time role to be added to the upcoming year’s budget. To start, he estimates he needs funding for half a year at a rate of $53,500.
The committee that recently completed a staff salary and employee benefit study recommended adding the role as it has in the past, but Grant said now there is more of a need.
At a March budget retreat, he reported that over the last 12 months, the town has had 14 Family and Medical Leave Act filings, with two ongoing; 11 workers compensation claims, with one ongoing; nine short-term disability claims, with two ongoing; and an ongoing Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claim for alleged discrimination.
During the April 1 commissioners meeting, Grant updated the workers compensation number to say there are three open claims with a cost projection of nearly $200,000.
“I feel like we’ve been lucky,” Mayor Woody Washam said of the town not having to pay millions of dollars in settlements. “It’s caught up with us now. We are risking tax dollars.”
Not everyone agrees. Commissioner David Gilroy wants proof adding the position would save the town money. He is concerned with the fact personnel costs for the town’s more than 150 employees are already increasing 10 percent next year due to staff raises.
Grant researched other options and estimates an HR firm working 24 hours a week would have a rate of $93,000 a year; a part-time employee for 25 hours a week would cost $92,000 a year; a contractor for 30 hours a week would be $99,000 a year; and a full-time employee working for 40-plus hours onsite costs $107,000 a year.
Currently staff, a law firm and an HR consultant are paid to solve problems after they arise, but cost and accessibility are among Grant’s concerns with outsourcing. He said Cornelius has $64,500-$83,500 in existing annual costs that could be reduced by having an in-house HR director, who could be more proactive.
Among the tasks he hopes the HR director would handle are conducting investigations into personnel concerns before they become risks; managing complicated employee and workplace relations issues and establishing specific training to improve safety and reduce liability. Another assignment would be handling everything that goes into recruitment, retention and development since those were other concerns staff have raised.