Local Taxpayers Ultimately Foot Bill For Salary Increases

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At Thursday night's special council meeting Tim Fruth, George Barriger and I tried to reconsider the decision to use the current market survey to raise salaries for 63 town staff positions.

The motion failed on a four-to-three vote. The mayor did not allow any discussion so we were unable to present our concerns in a public forum so both the town employees and the taxpayers could understand the issues.

In last year's budget process, I worked very hard, along with Tim Fruth, to develop a plan to get our rank and file employees to market using the survey developed in 2004. My alternative plan, which gave all employees a raise up to $500 per month or to market whichever occurred first, was adopted.

This put our police patrol officers, firefighters and most other nonmanagement/supervisory workers at market.

A total of 92 employees or 60 percent of staff were at market effective mid-December 2004. This is the first time ever for the town to make full market salary adjustments for any of its staff.

In my opinion the 2004 market survey is significantly flawed when used for management/supervisory positions. I expressed my concerns, along with others, that it shouldn't be used for the higher end positions.

The Maricopa County towns and cities used are much larger and faster growing. The department staffing, budget and complexity of these metro locations are equal to or greater than for our entire town.

Some supervisory positions in the municipalities we used aren't eligible for overtime when our positions are. So we also pay overtime based on the higher salary for these individuals. Just within our public safety departments we allocated over $583,000 for overtime in the current budget year.

I requested we revise our market survey to make sure it addresses our real needs and provides a fair and equitable compensation plan for the lowest entry level position to the most highly compensated position. A proposal to raise salaries by $250 per month or to market whichever occurred first and then redo the survey for those who didn't make market was offered.

This generous alternative proposal was not even discussed at the council meeting.

The budget impact using the current market survey is $402,000 for the first year. On top of that, all employees are scheduled to receive a 2.3-percent cost of living adjustment, effective July 1, 2005.

We have missed an opportunity to make more realistic adjustments and be better stewards of our taxpayers' dollars. We will be paying for it for a long time.

Robert Henley
Payson Town Councilor

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