Staunton city government staffing issues predate ‘Great Resignation’

STAUNTON You’ve probably seen “help wanted” signs everywhere in the past year, or maybe you’ve had to deal with a staff shortage at work. Maybe you even decided enough was enough and gave your work the old rant. Either way, it would seem at first glance that the “big resignation” definitely had an impact on Staunton.

But the data obtained from the city seems to indicate that the “great resignation” may not be a new problem for the city, but rather the culmination of long-simmering problems.

During Staunton’s presentation of its fiscal year 2023 budget in late March, Acting City Manager Leslie Beauregard used the term to refer to the staffing issues facing the city’s police department as part of the reasoning behind a public safety pay package that had “never been done”. before.”

In their back and forth with the city on fully funding Staunton City School budget requests, many teachers, students, parents and community members have spoken of the turnover they have seen among staff in the education system.

Turnover rates between the city and the schools have both been generally high, above the 10% benchmark usually held by private companies.  Data is from the City of Staunton.

The city’s employee turnover rate has increased since the pandemic began, according to the city, but those numbers weren’t unrelated. Indeed, the turnover rate in 2020-2021 was 13%, identical to the city’s turnover rate from 2016-2018. In fact, the only time the city’s turnover rate fell below double digits was from 2018 to 2019, when it was 9%.

The city’s school numbers also underscore the longevity of the employee retention problem among Staunton’s public employees. From 2020 to 2021, theoretically plagued by the Great Resignation, schools faced their lowest turnover rate of the previous five years at 12%.

This is not to say that employment was not a problem for schools, but rather that the problem has existed for a long time. Over the past five years, schools have had to deal with turnover rates of up to 17%.

For reference, a private company generally aims to keep its turnover below 10%.

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What is the “great resignation”?

In July 2021, more than four million Americans quit their jobs, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. By the end of the year, and apparently spurred on by the pandemic, nearly 50 million Americans had voluntarily quit their jobs in what has been called the “Great Quit.”

Nor is the idea that “the big resignation is a new problem” unique to Staunton. A statistical analysis of average monthly quits data by Harvard Business Review showed that the percentage of workers leaving their jobs steadily increased each year until 2020, when employees actually stayed in their jobs longer than expected. However, this data rebounded in 2021 to meet expected expectations, even despite the previous year’s decline.

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What Happened During Staunton’s Supposed “Big Resignation”?

For the schools, turnover has been almost constant, as evidenced by their turnover rates, but in the past year they have seen 25 professional staff leave the system, along with 37 support staff.

Of the current 22 positions schools are seeking to fill, 13 are professional staff and nine are support staff. These issues surfaced during the school budget debates, where only seven of the 27 positions requested by the schools were funded.

On the city side, the highest turnover rates come from public works and the police, with nine and eight departures respectively. However, of the departures to the police department, five were police officers compared to three dispatchers.

This is reflected in the current positions the city is trying to fill, as it seeks 11 public works employees, five police officers and four dispatchers. The city’s numbers are also skewed slightly by turnover at the sheriff’s office, where election results led to five employees leaving the department.

—Akhil Ganesh is the government reporter at The News Leader. You can contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @akhildoesthings.

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