It's all over but the counting!

For the next couple of days we will be plowing through a mountain of mail--we have about 30,000 letters--from people who responded to our April 17 poll.

Readers were asked how they felt about the Reagan administration's pending personnel reforms. The reforms would limit within-grade raises (which now go to 99 percent of all employes based on length of service) to a new standardized performance appraisal system. Performance, rather than seniority, would determine who is sparred when agencies are undergoing reductions-in-force.

The proposed changes were published in the Federal Register for comment. That formal comment period ends May 31. And the new rules could go into effect as early as October unless Congress delays them.

Another survey question dealt with the administration plan--which would have to be cleared by Congress--to raise the government retirement age to 65, and increase employe contributions to the retirement fund from 7 percent of salary to 11 percent. Feds with 30 years service can now retire at age 55 with an annuity equal to about 56 percent of their salary.

We took the poll because administration officials said they haven't had much feedback from the people who would be most affected. Much of what they got, they said, was favorable. Many, many feds called in and said nobody had asked them. So we did.

A lot of "voters" attached comments to their ballots. Many of them signed their names and addresses--a gutsy thing when one criticizes the boss. Here are some of the comments, first on the proposed higher retirement age:

* "I am 45 years of age. I suffer from diabetes, work for the government and will probably be dead on, or not long after, my 55th birthday. The proposal to change the retirement program will probably mean I have no chance of enjoying either retirement or any return on my contribution to the civil service retirement fund. Is this fair?"

* " . . . . retirement at 65 is okay so long as this is known when first employed. For those old codgers from, say, 45 to 54, it seems a little unfair to change the rules drastically."

Most of the comments came on the proposed performance-based appraisal system. PBIS would make an employe's latest performance rating--not his seniority-- a major factor in whether he gets an in-grade raise, or gets RIFfed.

A majority of the votes counted so far favor performance over seniority, with the big "if" being if such a system could be run fairly. Most people say they do not think such a system could, or would, be run fairly in their office. This is what they are saying:

* "Any office where ex-secretaries can be promoted to GS 13 and above after one or more trips (official business of course) with the boss, and deny male college grads with three to five times as much experience promotions, certainly can't expect fair appraisals . . . . "

* "I don't think it would work anywhere . . . . Suppose you had 10 years of 'outstanding' performance ratings and then just 'average' the year of a RIF?"

* "I would support performance over seniority. I have worked in that environment in industry. However, the government is not industry and the potential for abuse is much greater."

* "Objective appraisal system impossible under current application of existing rules, absolutely impossible under proposed changes in system. New rules permit widespread changing of ratings to fit a predefined curve. Under new rules such curving of ratings would be legal and nongrievable."

Most "voters" said the Reagan administration is worse than the Carter administration in its treatment of federal employes.

* "I learned to understand that the word 'reform' used by both the Carter and Reagan administrations really meant to cripple the system . . . . "

"This administration has shown nothing but contempt for the federal employe from its very first action. The Carter administration bumbled with merit pay but the intent did not seem to be hostile . . . . "

Will give you an updated vote count this week. And hope to have a final report for you--and the Reagan administration and Congress--by this weekend.