Franklin County officials are scheduled to continue discussion on possible changes to the employee pay plan this Wednesday.

Controversy arose late last year when only a small number of county employees received raises.

The county commission then commenced a review of its pay plan and the method by which raises are given to workers.

Commissioner Mike Schatz said Monday that he thinks there are problems with the method in which employees are paid.

But Schatz said the development of a new pay plan will require the cooperation of county department heads.

Schatz state statute allows department heads to allocate money in their budgets. So if they want to give their employees certain raises instead of abiding by a universal county pay plan they are entitled to do so, he said.

“A lot of it will hinge on whether elected officials want to participate in it,” he said. “That has always been the issue.”

Schatz said the goal is to get all of the county offices on the same page in terms of pay. This is not the case now, such as this year when the only employees to get raises were workers in the recorder of deeds office and the assessor’s office. Sixteen highway department workers also got raises through their union contract.

There has to be a better pay method than what the county is using now, Schatz said.

“It will be interesting to see how it plays out,” he added.

Schatz used the sheriff’s office as an example of how the pay plan has problems, noting that there are some employees with years of experience making the same or less than someone just out of the law enforcement academy. That is not right, he said.

He added that he would like to see employees brought up to the pay where they should be, but finding the money to give raises will be difficult.

The first meeting to review the pay plan was held in January with department heads and the second meeting is scheduled for this Wednesday at 9 a.m. in the county commission chambers.

At issue is whether the county’s “step and grade” employee classification system needs to be updated.

County officials have discussed implementing a new pay system in which employees are rewarded based on merit, or how well they perform their jobs.

Some department heads have expressed concerns about whether a merit-based raise system would be objective or just a popularity contest.

Seniority is another criterion that could be looked at when determining whether workers should get raises.

Tight economic times and flat sales tax revenue have resulted in no employee raises this year except for the small number of employees in certain offices.

The last time an across-the-board pay raise was given to county employees was in 2008, and it was 5.7 percent.

Presiding Commissioner John Griesheimer has said that he thinks county employees are grossly underpaid. He also said he worries the county will lose valuable workers once the economy improves and hiring picks up in other sectors.

The unemployment rate in Franklin County in December, which is the latest data available, was 7.4 percent, compared to the state rate of 6.7 percent.