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.