Pelham must decide how to invest taxpayer money

Published 3:01 pm Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A work session earlier this week for the Pelham City Council focused on something of a touchy subject: is the way and amount Pelham City employees are compensated fair or too generous?

A salary survey conducted by Mercer, Inc. was at the heart of the work session detailing things from how the survey was conducted, what comparable wages are in similar cities, etc. All told, the $85,000 investment the city made in having the survey professionally conducted appears to be money well spent. Now comes the difficult part of deciding what, if anything, to do with the data.

Councilman Mike Dickens stressed prior to the meeting that the council is in the listening stage rather than being in a position to decide if employee compensation is being handled properly or if the current process can be improved. In other words, no assumptions need to be made at this point of what may or may not happen as a result of the survey. And I believe him.

Pelham Mayor Don Murphy made clear during the work session that the purpose of the survey was not to look for ways to cut the earnings of city employees, that no snap decisions would be made and that he has confidence that they will make the right decision. And I believe him.

The subject of how someone will be compensated, how that compares to their peers is always an uncomfortable discussion but the reality is, having such a conversation (formally or otherwise) is a sound practice. This is particularly true in economic times when tax revenue is tight and the future a bit cloudy.

The city of Pelham was wise to commission the wage survey, as judiciously investing taxpayer money is one of the first orders of business for any governmental body. The city is likewise correct in considering any changes in how employees might be compensated as a result of such a survey.