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Study recommends hefty pay raises for city employees

March 08, 2006|by DANIEL J. SERNOVITZ

The City of Hagerstown is underpaying its workers by as much as 40 percent and will need to increase salaries by nearly $4.8 million in order to stem the tide of workers leaving the city in search of higher pay, according to the findings of a wage compensation study unveiled to the city council Tuesday night.

"We'll give you a few moments to digest the big number and pick yourself off the floor," city Human Resources Director Donna Messina said before taking comments from the council.

Dozens of city workers packed the council chambers, and many listened from the hallway and an adjacent conference room as representatives from Springsted Inc. released the findings of a study taht received the endorsement of each of the city's unions.

According to the study's recommendations, about 12 percent of the city's 439 workers are making significantly less than Springsted's recommended minimum pay.

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If the city wanted to immediately adjust its pay scale, Messina said it would need to increase salaries by about $4,760,000. She outlined a program under which the city would authorize about $2.1 million in increases with the city's 2006-07 budget and implement the rest of the recommended raises over the next two years.

"It's a big number, and it is a big challenge," she said. "They need to feel that they are fairly compensated."

In September, the council accepted a $58,750 bid by Springsted Inc. of St. Paul, Minn., to study the system the city uses to pay its workers. Messina said the city has essentially become a "training ground" with its current pay structure, investing time and money to train workers who move on to higher-paying jobs once they have received enough training and experience.

"They do have the experience, and rightly so that they want to be fairly compensated," Messina said.

Representatives from each of the city's unions, and one representing nonunion workers, endorsed the study's findings and Messina's recommendation that the pay raises be implemented over the city's next three fiscal years.

"This is not just a union issue, this is from mid-management up," said Tommy Kline, representing the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Local 1540. "We're willing to do what it takes to get this implemented."

Councilman Kristin B. Aleshire said he wants Springsted to come back later this month to field questions once the council members have had the chance to digest the study and its recommendations.

City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said he will try to incorporate the study's findings into the city's 2006-07 budget, to be presented by the end of the month. City Finance Director Alfred Martin said he does not know if the measure would require the city to increase taxes.

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