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Council OKs $5,000 city pay boost

April 06, 2005|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

The Hagerstown City Council on Tuesday authorized a $5,000 additional expenditure to boost base wages for a few city supervisors for the last two months of the fiscal year.

The authorization was part of a discussion during the council's Tuesday afternoon meeting on wage problems the city faces.

"We've got some people in this city that are grossly underpaid," Councilman N. Linn Hendershot said.

The $5,000, which would be spread among 12 supervisors in four departments, was requested by City Human Resources Director Donna Messina.

Messina said the additional wages were needed for "front-line supervisors," such as police department sergeants, fire department captains and supervisors in the water and sewer department and customer service division.

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The problem - known as wage compression - is that some supervisors earn scarcely more than the employees they supervise, Messina said. The condition leads to low employee morale and discourages employees from taking on more difficult jobs.

For instance, there has been a decrease in the number of police officers seeking higher ranks, Acting Hagerstown Police Chief Charles Summers said.

"We continue to have less and less officers taking the promotional test," Summers said. He said the officers recognize they would earn less as supervisors, possibly for several years.

Messina and Assistant City Finance Director Ray Foltz said there are longer-term problems relating to wages and benefits, including differences among the four city unions and the nonunion employees in leave, wage and benefit packages.

There also are concerns about how the city's wages and benefits compare to other cities, Messina and Foltz said.

The two recommended a comprehensive study on all the employee groups to help decide how the wage and benefits packages should be altered.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said he thought a study should be done, but an effort should be made to be fair to all employee groups - something he said hasn't been done in the past.

Metzner said the four unions and nonunion employees should agree on who would do the study, as well as what would be included in the study.

Foltz said there is $25,000 in the proposed fiscal 2005-06 budget that would pay for a wage and benefit study for one employee group, but a citywide study would cost $65,000 to $70,000.

The council gave preliminary approval to the citywide study, but it would have to be included in the process to adopt next year's budget.

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