Study may lead to pay hike for some city staffers

Some Oak Harbor city employees may see increased remuneration in the near future.

During a workshop last Wednesday, members of the Oak Harbor City Council and employees from McGrath Human Resources Group discussed a salary study for non-union employees that was conducted by the consulting firm. Council members put off adopting the “market rate salary schedule” until the next council meeting so they could get more information on how proposed salary increases will impact the budget in the long run.

The study compared the salaries of the non-represented employees to employees at “comparable cities.”

The company found that salaries for those employees have fallen below the market average.

As a result, the company proposed a new salary schedule with 10 “step increases” based on longevity. Most of the employees will see salary increases, which will be phased in over a number of years.

Councilman Rick Almberg pointed out that the city will soon have the results of a rate study which will likely call for big increases in sewer rates because of the new sewage treatment plant.

Almberg questioned how it would look to citizens for employees to get raises at essentially the same time.

“Non-represented employees get a 3.8 percent raise,” Almberg said.

“That’s the headline.”

Malayna Halvorson Maes of the McGrath group explained that the goal is for employee salaries to fall within 10 percent of the market average.

About 26 percent of employee salaries currently fall below that goal; more than half of the employees have salaries that are maxed out under the current schedule.

Average increase under the new schedule will be about 3.8 percent. That would have cost the city about $50,000 this year if the increases would have started Sept. 1, as originally planned. The increases will cost about $82,000 next year.

The cost of the salary increases doesn’t include cost-of-living adjustments, which have already been budgeted for. The non-represented employees received a 2 percent cost-of-living raise this year and will get another 2 percent next year.

Councilwoman Erica Wasinger said she had concerns about the potential size of non-union employee raises with both step increases and cost-of-living adjustments.

The two types of raises combined could be substantial.

“I think it’s unreasonable maybe to give a 9 percent over the course of a year pay increase,” she said. “I think that that’s a little unreasonable for me.”

Under the 10-step schedule, salaries will increase by 2.5 to 5 percent as an employee goes up a step.

Councilman Joel Servatius also had questions about how the salary increases will affect the budget in years to come. He said the proposed salary schedule was fair and equitable, but he wanted to ensure the city’s budget can support the cost over the long run.

Councilwoman Tara Hizon said she wanted to have additional financial information but, at the same time, she didn’t want to “kick the can down the road” and make the employees wait longer for the new salary schedule.

Councilwoman Beth Munns questioned what additional information the council needs and argued that they should move forward and adopt the schedule.

The McGrath study states that the salary increases under the new schedule would cost the city an additional $500,000 if adopted all at once. McGrath officials, however, cautioned that the number was a very rough estimate.

City Supervisor Doug Merriman explained that estimating how much extra in salaries the city will pay under the new schedule is difficult for future years because of a number of variables, such as attrition.

Under the new salary schedule, the city administrator’s salary would range from about $128,000 to $170,000 a year. Salaries for the city attorney and public works director would be from $116,000 to $155,000 a year.

The police chief and finance director’s salary range would be from $111,000 to $147,000.

The “council packet” available to the public did not include the current salary schedule, the McGrath study or the executive summary of the study.

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