Weaverville – Businesses know how hard it is to fill an open job position these days, but what about local governments? David Hill presented a report on a pay and classification study to the Weaverville Council at their workshop on Tuesday (Feb. 15).
The study focused on Weaverville’s competitive market positioning, employment recruitment & retention and a “living wage” establishment to find out where the town stood compared to other government entities in the area. During his presentation, he recommended to the board that the town raise salaries to the average or above in order to bring up the town’s favorable rating.
The study revealed of the current municipal workers, about 50.7 percent of town employees had been with the town five years or more. According to the report, it has been 11 years since the last comprehensive study was done and “there currently exists irregular increments between salary grades…due to increases at the lower grades to implement [a] living wage.”
According to Hill’s findings, only 29 employees would receive a pay increase, with most of those being in the public works department followed by the fire department and then the police department. Forty-one employees or 59 percent would receive no pay increase.
The annual cost of implementing Hill’s recommended plan would be about $81,000 with about $65,000 in actual salaries and the rest in benefit costs.
Who gets what?
Between $4,000 and $4,500 annually, the largest raises would go to four employees who currently make an average of $43,700 annually. Five employees are in line for the next largest increase at between $3,000-$4,000 annually. Those employees are currently averaging nearly $44,000 a year. An annual raise of between $2,000-$3,000 would go to seven employees presently averaging about $43,700 a year. Another five workers making an average of 39,500 would see an increase of $1,000-$2,000 annually. The last group of eight employees currently making an average of $45,100 would get a $1,000 annual raise.
These workers include fire captains (three), fire lieutenants (two), fire engineers (five), firefighters (five), police officers (two), senior maintenance workers (four), maintenance workers (four), water treatment supervisor (one), meter technician (one) and equipment operators (two).
Hill also included in his study the living wage, which just changed for the Asheville area. While the town council during FY 2021-2022 set the living wage at $15.80 or about $32,900 annually, The Buncombe County living wage for 2022 was just raised to $17.70 or about $36,800 annually.
Downside of Implementing Plan
Hill said the plan could create what he called “salary compression,” causing not much difference in pay grades for a job, something Councilwoman Catherine Cordell pointed out in the discussion. “I see a problem here…What I would not want to see is 29 of the people get raises. Some of the raises are big, ok and that takes that person to a higher amount than someone who’s been here longer.”
Weaverville Town Manager Selena Coffey agreed with Cordell but said it was because for the last few years, the town council had not gone with rewarding longevity. Coffey asked Hill to address that problem.
However, Weaverville Mayor Patrick Fitzsimmons recognized Councilman Andrew Nagle first. Nagle said that this was not just a problem of paying enough. No one is able to hire. “I just had a meeting with the Manufactures Executive Association in town, and, obviously, the town can’t move, but nobody can hire.” He then said it might come down to the town having fewer staff.
Hill then told the group that his plan addressed Cordell’s concern with longer-time employees’ wages calculated at the higher end of a pay category than one with less seniority. Fitzsimmons said the council should keep in mind that the budget process for next year was coming up and the council would have to address staff salaries for the budget anyhow.