Albert Rukwaro
Special to The Gardner News
There was spirited debate at the Edgerton city council meeting Dec. 13 over a proposed city staff pay raise.
Beth Linn, city administrator, presented the results of a compensation and benefits study that compared Edgerton’s city employees’ pay scales to those of employees in other cities in the region.
The study looked for cities that mimicked Edgerton in several categories including economic growth, workload and quality of life.
Linn told the council that Edgerton has unique characteristics that presented challenges in selecting the most comparable cities to conduct the study.
“Similar to the unique characteristics of having small town charm in our residential areas while being home to an international logistics hub, Edgerton staff experience the types and variety of work of both smaller and larger communities,” she said.
The study compared Edgerton’s pay structure to those of Gardner, Olathe, Lenexa, Shawnee and Overland Park.
According to the study, there’s a huge disparity between Edgerton and other cities on assessed property valuation per employee and annual capital improvement budget per employee.
Information provided indicated Edgerton’s 2017 total assessed valuation per capita was more than $69,000 compared to Gardner’s $8,700 and Olathe’s $13,600.
2017 assessed valuation per employee was more than $7,670,000 for Edgerton compared to $1,366,851 in Gardner and $1,662,000 for Olathe.
Average annual Capital Improvement Budget per capita was $5,300 for Edgerton, $159 for Gardner and $381 for Olathe.
The study proposed that the annual pay for the lowest pay grade be upgraded from $29,120 to $31,500 to a maximum of $47,250 while the pay for the highest pay grade be upgraded from the current $79,850 to $85,000 to a maximum of $127,500.
Don Roberts, mayor, said the city needs to raise the pay for employees because the job market was tight, and it was becoming harder to attract and keep quality employees.
“There’s huge competition with the private sector, and what this study did was establish what the market is. We are able to see the market for what it is,” he said.
But Ron Conus, councilman, wondered why the study only used cities that were larger than Edgerton for the comparative study, adding that he was not opposed to raising employee pay but not to the levels being proposed.
“Why are we comparing ourselves to cities that are ten times our size?” he asked. “Have we looked at cities that are smaller?”
But Roberts said it would not make sense to compare Edgerton with some small town in western Kansas because that would not be the same job market.
“We’re competing with these other cities in the county, it makes sense to compare with them,” he said. “We used the cities in the job market we compete in.”
Conus also expressed concern that the stock market was not currently doing well and what the effects of any slowdown would be on the economic growth being experienced in Edgerton.
“If our licensing fees and permits drop then what do we do?” he asked.
Katee Smith, councilmember, said that city employees do a lot, and she would not be opposed to compensating them fairly.
Linn, in response to a question by Jody Brown , council member, said the city would spend an extra $80,000-$130,000 if the proposals are adopted in the next financial year.
“It’s less than what has been budgeted for 2019,” she added.
The proposal to accept the findings of the study passed with support from councilmembers Smith, Brown and Curt Longanecker. Conus voted against.
The council will hold a final vote at an upcoming meeting.