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City employee raises cause stir

Of the Keizertimes

Salary surveys for unrepresented employees spurred debate among members of the Keizer City Council during a meeting Monday, Aug. 7.

The city conducts salary surveys of comparable employees at other agencies on a regular basis and then adjusts compensation packages to bring them in-line with average pay for the given type of work. The city is required to perform such surveys for union-represented employees, but conducts the surveys for non-union employees as a matter of policy every four years. Unrepresented employees generally perform supervisory roles.

This time around Human Resources Director Machell DePina recommended raising compensation in nine of the city’s 39 job classifications, affecting 14 employees in six departments.

“The last time we performed the survey (2013) we recommended adjustments in more than half the classifications,” DePina said.

The total cost of the cost of living (COLA) and merit adjustments – which will affect positions including the event center coordinator, legal assistant, accounting technicians and Keizer police sergeants, among others – is $52,300. The city will absorb the additional costs through better-than-expected revenues from franchise fees and liquor taxes and lower-than-expected health care costs, said Tim Wood, city finance director.

DePina said the raises only bring current Keizer employees within 5 percent of averages.

“It doesn’t even bring them even,” DePina said. She suggested failing to do so could be more costly in the long run because of increased turnover, reduced productivity and morale issues. “We do the same work as other cities with a third of the employees, and lower salaries would make it difficult to recruit the exceptional candidates.”

Councilor Amy Ryan took issue with the timing of the raises, which will be retroactive to July 1, and the ask itself.

“I think we have some great quality people, but as a budget committee member we approved (COLA) raises at $67,000 in June,” Ryan said. “The timing is poor – not because of employees – but because we just approved fees for police and parks. That’s $120,000 in raises right when we are asking for (residents) to help us make right our police and parks.”

The approved 2017-18 budget included $67,400 in cost-of-living and merit-based raises.

Ryan questioned why the salary survey was not included as part of budget talks that took place in May.

“The budget committee is going to look at the allocation of resources, but I don’t think it is up to the budget committee to determine whether (unrepresented employees) should be paid competitively,” responded Mayor Cathy Clark. “The compensation is a policy decision that we have chosen to take care of (non-union) in same manner as unionized employees.”

It still did not sit well with Ryan who voted against the implementation of pay adjustments.

“$119,000 in increases when we are asking our tax payers to step up is very unfair,” Ryan said.

The increases were approved with a 5-1 vote. Councilor Laura Reid was absent.