City employees might get pay raises as part of Raleigh’s efforts to recruit top-notch candidates.
Raleigh staff presented a plan last week that would change the way the city pays its 4,000 employees by putting in place higher base salaries for most full-time positions. The plan would initially cost about $12 million, and the city would spend about $50 million over the next 10 years.
“This is an emotional issue. It’s complex. It’s taken a lot of time and effort,” Mayor Pro Tem Kay Crowder said. “It’s a very big number. We’re all trying to wrap our head around that number. But at the end of the day I think our employees need it.”
The plan by City Manager Ruffin Hall and his staff calls for a 14-step pay structure that employees could climb based on their work and experience.
A senior firefighter’s current salary ranges from $37,500 to $60,000. Under the proposal, the salary would be from $44,500 to $72,000.
The city has yet to determine where each employee would fall on the scale, so it’s unclear how many employees would get raises right away. But the city estimates at least 750 employees would need raises to get to the new minimum salary associated with their positions.
Hall, who was hired in 2013, describes the city’s compensation structure as antiquated and says one of his top priorities is making Raleigh more competitive in recruiting talented employees. The proposed pay structure is Hall’s third major effort to improve the city’s standing as an employer.
The first came in January, when the City Council adopted a “living wage” proposal by Hall’s staff that raised base pay for the lowest-level employees from $12.01 an hour to $13.76 an hour.
In February, Raleigh adjusted the minimum salaries of 2,101 city positions, more than half of which are in the police and fire departments. Raises in the those departments range from 6 percent to 13 percent, while most of the other positions will get raises ranging from 2 percent to 4 percent.
Last Wednesday, council members said they supported the proposed pay structure but were unsure how quickly to implement it.
The city would have to drastically cut operating expenses or seek outside funding sources – borrow money or raise it through higher taxes – to implement Hall’s plan by summer 2018. But adopting the plan in a phased approach may cost more over time and cause confusion among employees.
Crowder hesitated to commit to one approach until Hall includes the new pay scale in his budget proposal in May.
Some council members said the city should raise pay all at one.
“I think we need to bite the bullet on this,” Councilman David Cox said. The council needs “to make the correction and not drag it out – ensure that keeping our pay structures current is an ongoing priority.”
Councilman Bonner Gaylord agreed but said the city should be careful not to create awkward workplace situations where some employees get big raises while others get smaller raises.
“I think that will cause a problem from a morale standpoint,” Gaylord said, adding that the city could cap pay hikes each year.