Our View: Raises should be based on merit

Employees who do their jobs better and more efficiently than colleagues in similar positions should be paid more.

That generally holds true in the private sector, at least when labor unions are not involved. Where possible – meaning, where labor unions aren’t involved – it should hold true in the public sector, as well.

Trustees on the McHenry County College Board failed to come to an agreement late last month on how much of a raise 38 college administrators should receive next year. Some trustees argued for across-the-board 3 percent raises. Others said the salary increases should be less than that.

A consensus could not be reached, so no raises were approved.

During the debate, Trustees Chris Jenner and Ron Parrish, the board chairman, said they would like to see the college move away from across-the-board raises for administrators.

We support that idea.

Instead, a merit-based system should be considered. The highest-performing administrators should receive a larger percentage of whatever pool of money is available for raises each year. And perhaps the lowest-performing employees shouldn’t receive an increase at all.

College President Vicky Smith said that MCC administrators make an average of $19,000 less than their colleagues at neighboring schools, such as Rock Valley Community College and College of Lake County. That’s significant.

Supporting the across-the-board raises, she said that the college has lost some good administrators in recent years to these other colleges because they pay more.

We think a merit-based system would better enable the college to keep its highest performers. Pay them more, they stay.

A merit-based system also might motivate the lower-performing employees to work harder and more efficiently. Instead of getting an automatic raise, they have to earn it.

As taxpayers continue to be squeezed, governmental agencies need to become more efficient. Rewarding top employees while not rewarding inefficient employees is one way to accomplish that.

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