City to continue salary review across all departments with aim to recruit and retain employees – Salisbury Post
By Natalie Anderson
SALISBURY – With a vacancy rate of nearly 10% across its departments, the city plans to move forward with a salary study using funds allocated in the current fiscal year budget to study retention and recruitment issues.
At Tuesday’s city council meeting, City Manager Lane Bailey spoke to council members about pay issues in the fire department as well as recruitment and retention issues across all city departments.
“There is no question that firefighters’ pay is below the market,” Bailey said. “The problem we have and the challenge we have is that we have revenue issues, but we also have this city wide issue.”
For the current fiscal year, council members have authorized Bailey to use a surplus of nearly $ 1.5 million from the 2020-2021 financial budget to implement a 6.5% salary increase for sworn police officers, increases of 5% to 15% for certain public works positions; and an additional increase of $ 258,000 to further assess recruitment and retention issues in city departments. Additionally, the current budget increases the city’s 401 (k) correspondence for employees from 3% to 4%, with the exception of sworn officers, who receive a 5% correspondence by law. These 401 (k) matching increases amounted to over $ 130,000 in the general fund, $ 4,622 in the storm water fund, $ 47,145 in the water and sewer fund and $ 5,071 in the storm water fund. the public transport fund.
The budget also includes a 2% cost-of-living adjustment increase for all City employees, which will take effect Jan. 1.
Bailey doesn’t need a council vote to move the study forward. He is also set to retire in December, which means the to-do list for the next city manager will include solving the challenge. While the city had funds to implement wage increases due to a surplus, further increases could force the city to dip into the general fund or raise the tax rate, which would pose a problem for the years to come when the money gets tighter.
Bailey has started contacting the limited number of companies that conduct such studies and estimates a total cost of around $ 8,000. One, he said, could not start a study for Salisbury until November, as other municipalities across the state are grappling with the same challenge.
Scott Mooneyham of the League of Municipalities of North Carolina said the private and public sectors are facing the challenge. Although public sector jobs have historically paid employees less than what the private sector offers, he said, there has always been the allure of benefits. For this reason, Mooneyham said it was important to also study the benefits offered to employees.
“That’s why the league fought so hard for pensions,” he said. “It’s a recruiting tool.
The league reports that 80% of all jobs in North Carolina are located within municipal borders, with 75% of all retail sales occurring within those borders.
In addition to advisory services, the league also shares an annual salary survey with participating municipalities so leaders can see if they are in line with other cities and towns.
While there are no reported vacancies among firefighters’ staff at the moment, city officials are still concerned about their compensation. Firefighters’ staff received a raise in 2018, which included a higher base salary, certification incentives and monthly stipends. In January 2019, the base salaries for Fire Fighting Specialists I and II were increased to just over $ 31,000 and nearly $ 32,600, respectively. Lieutenant ranks have increased from nearly $ 38,000 to $ 45,000. The captains received a raise of almost $ 6,000. Human relations manager Ruth Kennerly said some salaries had been adjusted after reassessing the rank, years of service and education level of employees. Overtime pay for certain shifts has also been implemented.
Kennerly said the challenge of adjusting wages is that surrounding cities are doing the same to stay competitive. Salisbury, she said, once had better pay for firefighters than Kannapolis, but now Kannapolis surpasses Salisbury.
Due to a decision taken decades ago, Salisbury firefighters do not contribute to the social security program. Convincing enough people needed to re-enroll in the program, according to Bailey, would be difficult because these benefits require at least 10 years of membership, but result in lower pay for firefighters’ salaries. However, Bailey said the city is considering implementing a 457 plan, which is an IRS-sanctioned employee retirement plan offered by state and local government agencies as well as some non-profit employers. lucrative. Bailey says the return on investment from this plan would be more attractive than Social Security benefits, with the exception of spousal death benefits given to Social Security recipients.
Mayor Pro Tem Al Heggins told Bailey at Tuesday’s meeting that she wanted the city to conduct a pay study before making the decision to implement pay increases for police and police employees. public works during the current financial year.
“I think it’s a good thing to do, but I also think a salary study maybe should have been done at the very beginning of this budget of the year we voted on,” said Heggins. “There should have been some thought in a citywide salary study before a problem arose. So I’m just disappointed with that.
Given the large number of vacancies in both departments, Bailey said the human resources and finance departments felt those positions in particular were too urgent not to act.
Of the 81 positions in public works, there are nine vacant positions. These vacancies were the most important among sanitation and waste collection services.
“Now, I hope no one in this room needs police or fire services tonight, this week or this year,” Bailey said at Tuesday’s meeting. “But everyone in this room will be having their trash picked up every week, and that’s essential.”
In the IT department there are two vacancies out of the total seven, with the hiring of a network administrator of great concern, Bailey said, given the past year of virtual meetings and cybersecurity threats. In the finance and business services department, there are five vacancies out of a total of 20 positions.
Earlier this week, Salisbury Police Chief Jerry Stokes flagged 12 vacancies in the department, with the promise of a few candidates being recruited at the moment.
In total, the city estimates at least 40 vacancies out of the total 460 employees.
During the meeting, board member Brian Miller reminded board members that Fibrant’s debt is set to expire in 2029, which will be reflected in the city’s budget in the form of a reduction of nearly 10 cents. on the tax rate. Because of this, Miller said board members over the next few years may need to invest in the workforce through the fund balance because of guaranteed debt retirement savings.
Heggins said she was concerned the city would lose firefighters if the study takes too long, but Miller said doing anything without the objective results of the study is not ideal.
Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.