Dawson County Chief Tax Appraiser Kurt Tangel resigned earlier this month shortly after a request from the Board of Assessors for a salary increase for Tangel was denied by the board of commissioners.
Sam Gutherie, chair of the Dawson County Board of Assessors, asked the commissioners during a work session April 24 if they would consider granting a merit salary increase to Tangel due to the responsibilities of his job and how his job pays compared to other department heads.
“Comparing the chief tax appraiser position to some other management positions in our county shows that the chief tax appraiser’s position is underpaid, undervalued, or both,” Gutherie said. “There are other department heads paid substantially more than the tax appraiser...whose positions only minimally compare to this position.”
A document prepared by Gutherie and fellow board member Jim Perdue shows that Tangel is the third lowest paid out of 10 department heads, including the directors of finance, human resources, facilities, emergency services, public works, fleet maintenance, parks and recreation, planning and zoning and the senior center.
Gutherie asked the board for a two percent general increase and a 12 percent salary adjustment to bring Tangel up to the middle of the group as far as pay grade, at a salary of $77,685.
“We feel that Kurt needs not only a merit increase, he also needs an employee rating increase- he’s at a 28 now, I think he ought to be at a 30 based on what I’m looking at from the other employees’ ratings,” Gutherie said.
Tangel’s salary fell above the minimum for salaries rated at 28, as outlined in a salary study commissioned by the county in 2016. The county spent around $1 million last year implementing the study, which brought individual salaries up within the range and according to how long they had worked at the county, as well as an across-the-board two percent raise.
The minimum pay for an employee at a rating of 28 is $63,609; the mid-range is $80,147 and the maximum is $98,593.
In their document, Gutherie and Perdue specifically pointed out the inequity between Tangel’s pay and the pay of the senior center director, Dawn Pruett.
Pruett is paid a base salary of $73,226, while Tangel’s base salary was $68,000. Though both positions fell in the rating of 28, Pruett’s longer tenure at the county created a gap in pay.
Gutherie argued that the length of service of an employee should not be considered in their pay.
“The job responsibilities of the chief tax appraiser are far greater than those of the senior center,” the document from Gutherie and Perdue reads. “Kurt Tangel is required to have a thorough knowledge of State and Department of Revenue laws and regulations and requires ongoing training and schools on all aspects of his job. The administration of the Tax Assessor’s Office affects all county residents and property owners. The senior center only affects a small minority of county residents…and (requires) relatively no specialized training.”
Research conducted by the county clerk on behalf of the board determined that Tangel’s salary was in the mid to upper range of other chief tax appraisers in over 20 nearby counties of similar size, according to District 4 Commissioner Julie Hughes Nix.
According to Tangel and Gutherie, that did not mean the chief tax appraiser salary was fair in comparison to other department heads when considering the scope of the job.
“Should Dawson County lose its chief appraiser to another county offering a more equitable salary, the board may not be able to find a suitable replacement even at a higher salary than our incumbent chief appraiser,” Gutherie said.
District 2 Commissioner Chris Gaines said April 24 that he had to consider the fact that the county paid a lot of money for the salary study and should follow it.
“We do have phenomenal employees throughout the whole organization and asking for different monies for this person or that person is asking us to step outside of the boundaries and the guidelines that were given to us by this organization that we paid to do a salary study,” Gaines said. “That’s in no regards demeaning to the performance that (Tangel) has, he’s been a phenomenal person to interact with.”
The board voted unanimously May 3 not to approve the raise after a motion by Gaines.
Tangel turned in his resignation the following Monday.
Tangel said May 16 that his decision to leave was not based on the board’s decision not to give him a raise, and emphasized that the board of assessors had asked for the raise, not him.
He declined to go further into detail, and in his resignation letter, addressed to Gutherie on May 7, he stated that it had been a pleasure working for the board of assessors and that he would help with the transition of his duties to keep the department running smoothly after his departure.
Tangel was hired by the county as a field appraiser in 2006 and promoted to deputy in 2011 when Michael Joseph Roberts was promoted to chief.
Roberts resigned in May of 2013 after being arrested at his office on misdemeanor drug charges, and Tangel took on the role as chief tax assessor in June of that year.
Tangel’s last day on the job was Monday.
Gutherie said that Tangel has left at a critical time for the assessor’s office, since a two-year revaluation of all of the properties in the county was just recently completed.
“We’ll have a lot of people appealing the assessments, and we’ll be short the most talented person to handle the appeals,” Gutherie said. “(Tangel) is a big loss to Dawson County. He will be awfully hard to replace.”
Spurred by the request from the board of assessors, Gaines repeatedly told the board that though he wanted to remain consistent with the salary study, he felt there should be a formal way for employees or departments to ask for reconsideration of salaries as well as rewarding employees for a job well done.
During the board’s May 10 work session, Gaines said he wanted to consider developing a formalized process for the county to address “perceived inconsistencies within the salary study methodology” and find a way to award employees who are going above and beyond.
“We recently had a computer hack, and we have IT guys spent hours and hours of their time and dedication above and beyond what they normally do, and obviously we need to continue to do public acknowledgement of their activities and their level of performance,” Gaines said. “Someone suggested doing gift cards, or a day off, in order to publicly reward and show appreciation and small rewards for those employees that are doing that.
“I’ve seen in the past that employees that go above and beyond don’t do it for more money. It ties back to the appreciation level of it and for us to come up with a formalized methodology to try to implement that.”
Chairman Billy Thurmond agreed, and said that the salary study was meant to be a guide, not set in stone.
The board voted 3-1 against Gaines, declining to pursue his motion to allow human resources and the county manager to develop a plan to standardize the process for rewarding employees as well as a plan to address perceived issues with particular positions.
Nix, District 1 Commissioner Sharon Fausett and District 3 Commissioner Jimmy Hamby voted against the motion.
Hamby said that if the salary study was wrong, the board should do another one.