City employees get first look at proposed pay plan

Published 8:25 pm Thursday, January 17, 2013

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Pelham employees got their first chance to take a look at a proposed new pay plan during a Jan. 17 public hearing with Mayor Gary Waters in the city’s courtroom.

During the hearing, Waters explained the history behind the proposed plan, and said a complete revision of the city’s pay scales and classifications is “long overdue.”

“It comes down to this. The pay plan has not been revised in its entirety for 25 years,” Waters said to the more than 50 city employees and department heads in attendance.

The meeting came one month after the City Council voted unanimously to repeal the Mercer pay plan, which the city currently is operating under. The Mercer pay plan was narrowly approved by the council during an October 2011 meeting.

Waters said the Mercer pay plan is not compliant with the Pelham civil service law because it, among other things, does not apply the same amount of compensation to all positions in the same class. Waters said the Mercer plan served as the basis for a lawsuit brought against the city by several city employees in early 2012.

“You can’t have two people doing the same job and making two different rates of pay,” Waters said.

The new proposed pay plan, which was developed over the past several weeks with the help of an employee pay revision committee consisting of a range of city employees and department heads, ranges from about $31,000 for unskilled laborer positions to about $136,000 for top-level department heads.

“I’ve drawn some fire because people have said ‘Why are you letting the employees decide how much they are going to make?’” Waters said. “We didn’t let the employees decide how much they are going to make, we let them have input.

“We are trying to create a spirit of cooperation between the city workforce and City Hall,” Waters added.

If approved, the proposed pay plan would eliminate several positions such as court administrator, deputy city clerk and catering director, and would add positions such as a court clerk, an assistant library director and a greenskeeper.

Waters said the eliminated positions would save the city $970,723, and said the cost of adding new positions, implementing the new pay plan, funding a recent employee vacation buy-back plan and paying to settle the 2012 lawsuit will total about $853,138.

“Is every employee going to get a raise? Yes, absolutely,” Waters said. “I think this is a small price to pay for not revising our pay plan, in total, for 25 years.”

Waters said the Pelham Personnel Board will vote on the pay plan during its Jan. 23 meeting. If approved by the Personnel Board, the plan could go before the City Council as early as Feb. 4.

Waters said the city will continue to operate under the Mercer plan until a new pay plan is approved.