Danedri Thompson
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Gardner City Council members tabled a proposal to revise the city’s employee pay and classification system during an April 6 meeting.
Council members debated a proposal that would create a new base salary structure and class system and create a system to grant merit increases. Council set aside $230,000 in the budget in order to grant pay increases based on merit, and several city employees attended the meeting to hear the discussion. Pay increases would be retroactive to Jan. 1.
The proposed salary schedule would create 10 employee classifications and pay ranges. For example lowest range – level one – would be comprised of employees like the assistant court clerk and customer service representatives. The monthly salary range for those positions would be between $2,233 and $3,350. The mid-level range – level 5 – would include employees with titles like accountant, building maintenance supervisor, planner and senior human resource specialist. The level five monthly pay range would be between $3,937 and $5,905. At the top, level 10 employees, including chief of police and finance director, would receive monthly pay between $7,785 and $11,679.
The proposal adds a top salary schedule range. The 2014 salary schedule had 9 levels. The proposed 2015 schedule has 10.
The updated proposal would actually lower the pay range for the bottom rung of the salary schedule, and incrementally increase pay ranges for the other ranges.
The proposed salary schedule was created for the city by a consultant, Gail Merriweather, a consultant with Gallagher Benefit Services. She presented a compensation study to council during a March 16 meeting. She told the council the goal of the proposed schedule was internal equity, external competitiveness and ease of administration.
Alan Abramovitz, Gardner’s new human resources supervisor, told the council on April 6 that staff recommends adopting the new proposal because the old salary schedule is “kind of a mish-mash of progressions in grade 1 up to grade 9.”
The new ranges would be consistent.
“This will allow the staff flexibility in implementing the performance merit increase,” he told council. “This will give us the flexibility to determine how to actually give the merit increases in a uniform manner. This will also provide the leveling of positions and compensation throughout the departments.”
Council member Heath Freeman balked at upping the top ranges as high as proposed. For example, in the 2014 schedule, the top level, grade or level 9, has a salary range of $6,162 to $8,991 per month. Under the proposal, many of those positions would move to level 10, where the proposed salary schedule is $7,785 to $11,679 per month.
Most of the proposed salary schedule seems in line with market compensation targets, but he said the top two levels especially have a large spread.
“The finance director or the police chief is almost $40,000 above what the market rate is,” Freeman said. “That’s a very large spread there… This just seems out of whack.”
Abramovitz said that even though the salary schedule may show a particular market target for an individual position, that doesn’t mean the individual’s salary will be moved up to that rate.
“it will have an affect on that individual when merit raises happen,” Abramovitz said. “…To think anyone would reach 140 at this point, I can say for fairly certain, that probably isn’t going to happen.”
Freeman worried that the salary schedule is published and job seekers would make the high-end of the salary schedule their asking starting compensation.
City administrator Cheryl Harrison-Lee said that job postings typically post a range that is below the maximum of the salary schedule maximum.
Mayor Chris Morrow said that recruiters try to lock down potential hires’ salary requirements at every step of the process.
“This is what the position is advertised for, are you willing to work for what the position has been advertised for?” Morrow said. “…If you’ve got a candidate who, at the last moment, says well, you’ve got room in your salary range, that’s probably not the candidate you’re looking for.”
Freeman said he wouldn’t feel comfortable voting for the proposed salary schedule, because the top levels are too high.
“We don’t have the capacity to pay max, and if we can’t pay maximum, it’s silly for us to publish it,” Freeman said.
For personnel reasons, he said he didn’t want to put off voting on the salary schedule and merit increase proposal, but he said he could not support top ranges of $122,000 and $140,000.
“They’re above what we pay. They’re above the market rate, and they’re just above what we’ll pay,” he said.
Council briefly tinkered with the numbers for grades 8, 9, and 10.
“My concern is we would be voting on something we don’t have numbers for,” council member Steve Shute said.
The item was a tabled to a later meeting.