City reveals pay study

Published 11:01 pm Wednesday, May 2, 2012

On Wednesday, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the Suffolk News-Herald, Suffolk officials released the last 74 pages of a compensation study prepared for the city by a consultant group. The rest of the study had been provided earlier.

Also this week, city officials issued a sheet of “frequently asked questions” about the study as part of a plan to help educate employees on the compensation plan and its implementation, city spokeswoman Debbie George said.

The compensation and classification study, conducted by Management Advisory Group Inc., examined the pay, benefits, job classifications and descriptions for all city employees. It also recommended pay increases for about two-thirds of the city’s workforce, at a cost of about $3 million.

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“Overall, the salary survey findings show the City of Suffolk’s pay ranges seriously lag the market,” reads an executive summary provided in response to the FOIA request.

The summary also notes, however, that the market study is simply “an indicator of market trends” and the internal job analysis — a study of the job each employee is actually doing — “is the most critical element in determining pay grade assignment.”

The market study was denounced by some citizens, because it included localities with larger populations and in more affluent areas, including Alexandria, Virginia Beach, Hanover County, Richmond and Chesterfield County.

Responding to those complaints, Human Resources Director Ronnie Charles said at the April 18 City Council meeting that it is not the population or affluence of an area, but rather the skills needed to do a particular job, that drives the market for that job.

City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn recommended partial implementation of the plan in the coming fiscal year in her proposed budget.

The consultant also provided salary survey results for the four City Council appointees — the city manager, city attorney, city assessor and city clerk. In a move that proved controversial, a resolution for council’s consideration that was included with Cuffee-Glenn’s proposed budget would have given pay raises between 21 and 33 percent for herself and the other appointees.

Those proposals were stricken after hundreds arrived at city hall during the April 18 public hearing on the budget to protest the hefty raises. Their salaries instead will be reviewed upon satisfactory annual performance evaluations.

The salary study recommendations will be phased in with three parts. Those recommendations ultimately would give about two-thirds of the city’s employees increases of between 3 and 9 percent. The first phase would occur on Jan. 1, 2013, with the other two phases coming when the money is available.

All city employees also will receive a 2-percent cost-of-living increase this year.

The Department of Human Resources has developed an “educational plan” for employees to learn more about the compensation plan, George said. The plan began with informational sessions with department heads and a “frequently asked questions” flier passed out with employee paychecks on Monday.

The FAQ sheet — which has no letterhead — states that some employees have had questions and “we felt that it was important that all City employees had the same accurate information.”
The FAQ says employees will be told what is recommended for their position if the compensation plan is adopted.

George also responded to allegations that City Council members were not allowed to see the study by saying no member of Council has asked to see the entire study.

“We logged three requests for the entire study in the FOIA log and all have been complied with,” George wrote in an email Wednesday.