Randy Yohe Published

Locality Pay Moves Back To Legislative Front Burner

Getting Paid, Pay Day, Paycheck, Locality Pay, Pay

State employee shortages in critical positions like state police, corrections and health care are often acute in border counties, where neighboring states offer better pay.

Lawmakers with the interim Joint Standing Committee on Finance heard from Division of Personnel Director Chery Webb on Monday. She explained West Virginia has a limited geographical pay differential system already in place. She said agencies can explain their circumstances and apply for a pay differential approval.

“What the geographic pay differential allows you to do is to set the pay for a specific area for a specific classification based on data to address an issue that may be occurring in that area,” Webb said.

She gave an example of the Department of Veterans Assistance requesting a pay differential for the Barboursville Veterans Home.

“They were having a very hard time getting licensed practical nurses. It becomes challenging because Barboursville is competing with Huntington and with the state hospitals as well as the private ones,” Webb said. “Then, when you’re that close to the tri-state area, you’re competing with Kentucky and Ohio. You have to look at the salaries in those surrounding areas, and to see what an institution may need to offer to be able to get somebody hired in.”

Webb said most state agencies do not take advantage of requesting geographic pay differentials. She explained the challenges with the program are funding the pay hike, and concerns about how fellow employees will feel.

“Other employees are going to think, if I pay certain employees in this area, this amount, what about the employees that live over here? Will people move from over here to over here?” Webb said. “Sometimes that’s something that people have to take into consideration.”

Webb told lawmakers she has also discovered through her conversations with state agencies, it’s not always about money.

“Is it the environment in which they’re working in? There are people that want more work-life balance in this day and age,” Webb said. “Is there an opportunity that they want to have more of a say in the workforce, and they feel like they’re not having an opportunity to have meaningful work.”

Two bills to create locality pay either failed or were tabled and forgotten in the 2022 legislative general session. Eastern Panhandle lawmakers and Gov. Jim Justice are expected to push for locality pay in the upcoming 2023 general session.