In response to the July 7, 2005 Guest Comment written by Robert Henley, it is important to note that the Council decision last year to bring about 60 percent of our employees to market at that time, with the remaining employees to receive their market increases this fiscal year, was based on Robert Henley's suggestion and it was a good one. If there were any concerns about the market study and the policy on which it was based, that should have been brought up then. Certainly, at the very least, it should have been studied in the past year. To try to stop the implementation of a plan at the last minute, after a 7-0 vote to approve is unconscionable, in my opinion.
Mr. Henley's comments are misleading. Previous councils started the practice now being employed to determine salary ranges and market. Tracy Schmidt followed that practice by carefully selecting cities and towns that represented the median range for wages in Arizona. She spent significant time on accurate and very thorough research. Population is only one of the factors in this wage study. Another factor is the cost of living, which is higher here than in many other Arizona small cities and towns.
As shown by the salary study, most of our employees were paid below market. Many of our employees have never been paid at market level their entire career with us. These include department heads and many more rank and file employees. Last year the Council approved market increases in fiscal year 2005/2006 if the funds were available -- and now they are.
Bringing our town employees up to a salary they deserve preserves morale and sends a message that they are valued. We have a very competent group of people working for the Town of Payson and they have to make do with less supporting staff than many other towns. These people are knowledgeable and demonstrate great expertise in their positions and that actually allows us to save funds each fiscal year.
We are in competition with many other towns that can pay much more. We have continually experienced losing valuable employees to other communities. When employees feel they are being undervalued, they will leave. Just who is affected by this raise in salary? There are 60 employees affected of which only 10 are department heads. The rest include 15 police officers and 13 firefighters, as well as employees of the water department and legal staff. They are highly trained and invaluable to this town. Replacing and retraining individuals is a very costly practice and doesn't save money.
My mayoral position is that town personnel will be treated fairly and compensated appropriately. Above all, their efforts deserve appreciation from all of us. To disagree over fiscal matters is the right of town leaders and this Council had previously debated this issue and promised to bring these people up to a proper salary for this area and the job they do every day.