Clayton News-Star

Clayton could hike salaries

Based on a pay study, Clayton’s payroll looks to swell another $96,000 in the coming year.

The findings are the second half of a two-year pay study comparing town employee salaries with the same jobs in similar, nearby towns. If the Town Council goes along, it will have increased total payroll more than $300,000 in two years. That’s an average approaching $2,000 per employee.

This year’s results aren’t as dramatic as last year’s, which added $212,576 to the payroll budget, including one position receiving a $25,000 increase. Rebecca Veazy of the MAPS Group examined 61 employees doing 45 jobs in Clayton and recommended moving 41 workers up at least one pay grade. But she also recommended moving four jobs down and keeping 16 the same.

Veazy said she doesn’t consider the proposed increases raises.

“Our study is about jobs, not people,” she said. “We’re looking at duties in jobs and identifying proper classification, using duties to compare positions in different markets and adjusting salary ranges to meet the market. Employees that are found behind market get ‘catch-ups’ to where they should be already, not increasing pay.”

Still, the majority of the 61 employees will receive some kind of raise. The increase depends on a number of factors: the recommended jump in pay grade, how long an employee has been with the town and that worker’s current salary.

In all, the study recommends adding $96,339 in payroll for the 41 upgraded positions; the other 20 will see no change in their salary, for better or worse.

Employees will make at least the recommended minimum, plus 1 percent per each year of service. If an employee’s current salary is already higher than the recommended new minimum plus the years, he or she will still receive a 2.5 percent increase if the position’s pay grade goes up.

The majority of employees fall in the latter camp, including employees in jobs scheduled for the biggest grade jumps. For auditorium operations coordinator and deputy town manager, the study recommends an increase of four pay grades. But even with that bump, those employees already make more than they would under the pay formula and will receive the 2.5-percent raise instead. On the other end of the spectrum, development support services specialist, a position in the planning department, was downgraded four pay levels.

The study recommends significant grade increases for the parks and recreation director, box office/administrative coordinator and parks maintenance supervisor, but those won’t translate into big raises. As parks and recreation director, Larry Bailey makes $87,360, and the study recommends bumping him up three pay grades. Based on the recommendation and Bailey’s 26 years with the town, he would see a new salary of $87,504. But because the raise would be so slim, he would get the 2.5 percent.

Of the raises, many are in the $2,000 to $4,000 range. Town Manager Steve Biggs said he would not release the proposed new salaries. The Town Council has not voted on them, and state law only requires governments to release current salaries, not prospective ones, he said.

With many positions in line to see a 2.5-percent increase instead of a raise based on the pay study’s recommended minimum and years of employment, it seems as if town pay has outpaced the pay study.

Biggs said the town commissioned the study in order to recalibrate salaries after the stagnant years of the recession.

“We had an eight-year period, due to economic slowdown, where we did not give attention to the adequate compensation necessary for recruitment and retention purposes,” Biggs said. “At the beginning of last year, we began to repeat the process of evaluating the town’s position as an employer relative to the market.”

Biggs said the town is in a good position to absorb the additional $96,000 in payroll. Recent growth in Clayton has resulted in a broader tax base and more building and zoning fees.

“In this revived economy, with development picking up in the Route 42 corridor and the Route 70 corridor, we’re seeing quality growth in revenue sources,” Biggs said.

The study compares Clayton to Apex, Cary, Fuquay-Varina, Garner, Holly Springs, Raleigh, Selma, Smithfield, Wake Forest and Wake and Johnston counties. The recommendations in the study would place Clayton in the middle of the pack for many positions. For planning director, Clayton’s recommended hiring salary of $72,918 dwarfs Selma and Smithfield, is fairly even with Fuquay-Varina and Holly Springs, but behind Garner and Raleigh by wide margins.

“We try to stay as close to the Wake County towns as we can,” Biggs said. “We’re all drawing on the same talent pool, but Wake has the advantage of sales-tax revenues that are just so substantially more than what we have here. If we have similar property taxes, they’re still awash in sales tax revenues. We may not be able to beat their salaries, but we think we can get close enough and offer more in other areas like quality of life.”

The town council will not take separate action on the proposed salaries, except to approve or modify them in the upcoming budget adoption.

Drew Jackson: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104; @jdrewjackson