Town Salaries Competitive In Arizona Labor Market


When it comes to employee compensation and benefits, the Town of Payson scores an A- among municipalities of similar size and structure.

Personnel matters dominated a special meeting of the Payson Town Council Thursday evening when town leaders pondered salaries, staff additions and nonprofit donations.

Matt Weatherley of Public Sector Personnel Consultants presented the council, department heads and members of the audience with an analysis of the town of Payson's employee compensation and benefit trends, and the financial impact of making town-related occupations competitive.

Overall, 61 percent of the town's jobs receive competitive compensation -- 39 percent do not within the town's $7 million personnel budget.

"Supply and demand for skilled labor is what we're really talking about," Weatherly said.

Jobs are commodities, and like any other product, value is determined by market forces.

Around the turn of the century -- the 21st century -- venture capitalists made millionaires out of computer wizards and 20-year-old Web developers.

Today, those cyberspace castaways sell hot dogs to bankers.

The same thing happens to local markets.

Salaries, benefits and job descriptions stagnate if employers don't keep abreast of market trends.

"You've adjusted salaries on a blanket percentage rather than looking at the value of occupations in the market and how they vary," Weatherley said. "So sooner or later you might be underpaying some occupations and overpaying other occupations."

The study compared employers -- from private and public sectors -- salary ranges and job descriptions.

Salaries falling within 5 percent of the prevailing wage for a particular job were considered competitive.

For instance, in the state of Arizona the salary minimum for a dispatcher is $30,219. The midpoint is $37,773, and the maximum is $45,328 a year.

Payson's dispatcher averages $36,609 -- about 1 percent below the market midpoint.

Of the town's 148 jobs, 34 fall below the prevailing wage, 57 are between the minimum and midpoint wage for a particular job, 91 are near the prevailing wage, but still fall under, 56 range among the midpoint and maximum, and one job exceeds the maximum.

The town paid $16,000 for the study -- about $180 per employee -- and, said Weatherley, only half of that money was used.

The council could decide to apply the balance to implementation, which includes adjusting below-minimum wages, stabilizing the position that exceeds the maximum and setting aside money to upgrade employee salaries based on job performance and fund availability.

Over the next few months, the council and town leadership will consider the report's findings and determine the financial feasibility of changes.

During that time, the town will also consider the addition of new staff, including a patrol officer, deputy fire marshal, two part-time receptionists and an airport administrative assistant and maintenance worker, totaling $204,040.

Town Manager Fred Carpenter said the town is considering hiring a public information officer -- at an estimated annual salary of $55,000 -- to manage media and publicity.

And in 2005-2006, the town donated $75,000 to charity organizations.

Although town councilors agreed with supporting local agencies, they suggested trimming donations and helping organizations to improve internal fund-raising.

"We need to look at how we're using tax dollars for nonprofits and not make this an entitlement program," said Councilor Robert Henley.

"My recommendation would not be to increase what we gave last year," added Councilor John Wilson.

Salary sample:

Public Works Director

Payson: $91,284

Prevailing wage: $95,607

Airport Manager:

Payson: $63,027

Prevailing wage: $66,563

Fire Chief:

Payson: $95,902

Prevailing wage: $93,984

Parks and Recreation Director:

Payson: $84,773

Prevailing wage: $81,447

Police Chief:

Payson: $95,902

Prevailing wage: $97,450

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