City Council members put a temporary hold Tuesday on a plan to give all general employees a pay raise.
It’s not that the council didn’t like the idea of a new pay plan that would go into effect July 1, with the start of the new fiscal year. Rather, it was that Mayor Stan Booker voiced concerns about creating a new executive-level salary category that would benefit only one existing employee. He didn’t want the council voting on the pay plan until the agenda item was rewritten to allow the council to amend specific provisions.
The clock is ticking on the decision if council wants to tie it into the Fiscal Year 2024 budget, because that document must be approved and set seven days before the new fiscal year’s July 1 start date. City administrators said they anticipated the item would be on the council’s June 13 agenda.
The proposal is part of a plan to overhaul the existing pay plan for general employees, the definition of employees who are not members of the police or fire unions (those salaries are set by negotiated contracts). The existing plan contains 17 grades, with 17 steps within each, while the executive pay plan (salaries for the top-level administrators) has four grades.
The new plan that council members indicated they liked would contain 14 grades, with 11 steps within each. And the executive pay scale would see the addition of a fifth grade, with a salary range between $123,494.90 and $210,275.10. The top executive grade now is 4, with a salary range between $87,360 and $153,316.80.
Human Resources Director said the proposal for a fifth grade comes from the fact there are some executive level employees who are “maxed out” at their grade, meaning they can’t receive any more pay raises while remaining in that grade. So, the proposal — as with the general employee grades — is to adjust those salaries upward to better reflect the market average, then create a fifth category.
“Most of our executive positions are below market, significantly below market,” Akard said, adding there is one position that is “very far behind” market value, in terms of salaries paid in other cities.
Akard said the solution was to either increase the pay range for grade E4, or add a fifth grade. Under questioning from Booker, Akard said there is one position that would fall within the E5 category, and that is the deputy city manager. Booker responded he wasn’t interested in a pay grade that took someone’s salary to $210,000 a year.
“I want floor amendments,” Booker said, explaining the wording on Tuesday’s council agenda only allowed the council to accept the new pay schedule in its entirety and he wanted the item brought back at another meeting with an amendment ability so council can make changes.
Booker said while city administrators satisfied his concerns about whether the pay plan addresses the chronic shortage of engineers within city staff, “I have a challenge with E5.”
Earlier, Booker said his concern was whether the plan would address the city’s problems with recruiting and keeping qualified engineers in the city’s engineering department.
Akard said engineers now are in the GE17 pay grade (the highest), but under the new pay plan, they would be moved to the executive level pay plan (which would raise their salaries). Akard said one existing engineer would automatically go to that new executive level plan, while several others who are working on their professional engineer certification would move to that executive plan once they gain that certification.
The pay ranges from $61,942 to $101,254 in the existing GE17 grade, while E2 (the new category engineers would fall under) ranges from $80,000 to $135,000.