Higher pay in city workers’ future

Published 11:03 pm Thursday, January 19, 2012

City employees could have a pay hike in their future after City Council received the results of study showing employees are paid as much as 7.8 percent on average below their counterparts in other cities in the region.

“We do not need to be a training ground for other cities,” Mayor Linda T. Johnson said after hearing the report. “We do not need to lose our really good employees to other cities.”

The study analyzed 1,224 city employees in about 400 job classes, their internal and external salary equities, and more.

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City Council voted to direct city staff to implement study recommendations, which are expected to cost more than $3.2 million.

Salaries were compared to the six other Hampton Roads cities, as well as the cities of Richmond and Alexandria and the counties of Hanover and Chesterfield. Human Resources Director Ronnie Charles said the four out-of-area localities were chosen because the city frequently looks to those areas to recruit higher-level positions.

According to the study, higher-paying positions lag behind the market by about 7.8 percent. Mid-range salaries are about 6 percent behind, and lower-level positions are about 3.2 percent under the market.

Charles said only 7.5 percent of the city’s jobs currently are compensated at the market rate. By way of providing specific examples, he said, police officer recruits are 9 percent below market, Firefighter IIs are 12 percent behind and the city manager is 38 percent below market.

“This is an indication the city really needs to pay attention to this,” he said.

Charles also pointed out most of the data was collected in 2010.

“If we don’t do something quickly, these numbers will exponentially get worse,” he said. “It is something that has been a problem for many years in this city.”

He presented plans to bring employees up to comparable compensation levels and to correct what’s known as “salary compression,” when newer employees make as much as or more than veterans.

“I don’t think there’s any question we want to compensate our employees justly and fairly,” Councilman Michael Duman said.

Councilman Curtis Milteer said he wanted to increase salaries to keep productivity high.

“We know that we’re behind,” he said. “Once the employees get disenchanted, productivity goes down.”