Danedri Thompson
Members of Gardner’s Electric Utility Board approved 2011 salary schedules that include pay increases for employees of the electric company.
During a meeting Dec. 2, board members unanimously approved varying increases. The majority of employees will receive a 3 percent increase starting in January. Other employees will receive 6 percent competitive salary adjustments.
When they approved a 2011 budget in August, board members planned to offer larger raises as part of a phased competitive adjustment approved in 2009.
That year, board members commissioned a salary study after the electric utility had difficulty filling two vacant positions.
“The pay for our employees was not competitive,” Gardner Electric Director Bill Krawczyk told the board.
As a result of the study, board members agreed to adjust some salaries in phases to make them competitive. In 2010, some employees, including apprenctice linemen and journeyman metermen, received increases equal to 50 percent of the recommended competitive adjustments. The plan was to phase in the remainder of the competitive adjustments in 2011. Instead, board members approved only 25 percent of the recommended competitive adjustment for 2011.
“I am here while explaining this to suggest that Gardner Electric is operating like a business,” Krawcyzk said. And for that, he credits employees.
“They are entitled or deserve salary increases because of those contributions,” he said.
Board member Eric Schultz questioned why electric utility staff only recommended that the board approve half of the competitive adjustments when the budget was designed for double that amount.
“In light of the economic conditions, and present-time controversy surrounding increases for electric employees, I thought it would be prudent,” Krawcyzk explained.
City officials worried at one time about morale if electric utility employees received raises while city employees did not. The concern prompted the electric board to offer to pay additional fees to the city so city employees could receive raises as well. However, Mayor Dave Drovetta said in a letter to the board that the utility’s offer could not be considered until the council drafted the 2012 budget.
The city’s 2011 budget does not include raises for city staff.
Electric utility board vice chair Lance Boyd said he struggled with the timing of offering raises to Gardner Electric employees.
“The employees deserve it, but there are a lot of people who deserve it and aren’t getting it,” he said.
Boyd requested information about the disparities between public and private compensation and learned the federal employees’ salaries far outpace their private sector counterparts.
“I think that is a problem,” he said. “But my point in wanting to find that out is
I think local (public) pay is lower than the private sector. That’s my assumption.”
The utility will post a profit in 2010 and board members haven’t raised fees in the last two years. They also don’t anticipate a need to raise rates in the next few years.
“At the present time, we’re being very fiscally responsible with the revenues,” Krawcyzk said. “If we don’t give increases to our employees, how do we explain that to our employees?”
Board members unanimously approved the measure.