Oak Harbor Council approves salary increases

After delaying a decision so they could collect more information, the Oak Harbor City Council members approved a new salary schedule last week that will mean a pay increase for many of the non-represented staff positions.

Council members received more data and spoke to staff members since the workshop last week, but they still had questions left to be answered during the meeting.

The city hired McGrath Human Resources Group to do a study comparing the salaries for the non-unionized employees to the market average in comparable municipalities and government bodies. The positions include everything from seasonal laborers and administrative assistants to a permit coordinator and department heads.

The study found that 24 percent of the salaries are below the “comp ratio” that the study identifies as being acceptable. About 18 percent of salaries were on the low end of the comp ratio. Six percent — three positions — have salaries above the comp ratio.

The consultant and city staff recommended a new salary schedule and the phasing in of resulting salary increases over years in order to bring everyone closer to the market average.

Councilman Joel Servatius said he was concerned about the cost of the salary increases. He said he wants to make sure staff is “compensated fairly and adequately,” but, at the same time, it’s his job as a councilman to ensure spending is sustainable over time.

Servatius pointed out that the measure is estimated to result in a $500,000 annual increase in payroll over four years. He asked if city staff was comfortable with that increase.

City Administrator Doug Merriman explained that the city’s budget process has many “checkpoints,” at which time adjustments can be made.

“We won’t get ahead of our revenue stream,” he said.

Councilman Rick Almberg said he “wasn’t impressed” with the information presented by McGrath, adding it was confusing.

Almberg said he was concerned that the study didn’t look at the local labor market. He did his own mini-study of salaries at Island County, Island Transit and the Oak Harbor School District. He found that the salaries in Oak Harbor are “reasonably close” to the others.

Almberg said the council should be sensitive to the fact that the median salary of a household in Oak Harbor is less than $50,000 and residents may be facing a big increase in sewer rates. He said the pay raises may be hard for some residents to take.

While Almberg said he was reluctant to do so, he and the rest of the council voted in favor of the new salary schedule.