Fayetteville looks to improve city employee salary scale

Fayetteville’s city council Thursday night considered an opportunity to approve a mid-year budget adjustment that includes resetting the city employee salary scale to improve retention and recruitment potential.

City leaders have long discussed concerns that, because of the financial impact of the recent recession, the City of Fayetteville was forced to not only reduce staffing but to freeze salaries for a time to allow for the economy and tax revenues to pick up again. In the meantime, other larger municipalities in the area have become relatively more competitive now that municipalities are hiring again.

As well, when city officials took a closer look at the salary scales across the various departments, they saw strange situations where, for example, new hires were making nearly the same salaries as employees who had been in the same job for several years. Other scenarios showed where it might be seen as advantageous for employees to turn down promotions, because city salary policy capped how much of a raise a current employee could receive, whereas a new hire with similar qualifications from another municipality could be hired in at a better salary.

Now that that city’s financial outlook is brighter, City Hall officials say it’s time to rectify the salary scale.

The new salary plan is based on a 30-year career model, in which minimum and maximum salaries are established. These numbers would be adjusted for cost of living when fiscally possible from year to year.

The new plan then takes current employees, compares their current salary to where they should be in the pay scale based on years of service with the City of Fayetteville, and then makes an upward adjustment where necessary. In some cases, employees wouldn’t necessarily get a raise, because they may already be at or above that place in the 30-year timeline.

However, even in cases where employees may be well below where the timeline suggests they should be in terms of salary, budget constraints force the city to limit the makeup to about a third of the discrepancy.

Assistant City Manager and Fire Chief Alan Jones shared the following examples:

A master patrol officer with the police department who has just over 18 years with the city currently earns $51,313. The new salary scale plan says the salary range for an MPO is $38,723 to $64,075. While this MPO should be making $54,078 based on his position within the 30-year timeline, he is $2,765 under that target. Due to budget constraints, the city can only afford across the board to make up a third of all the salary scale discrepancies, so this MPO would only get a $961 adjustment for the upcoming year.

A maintenance crew leader with 16.6 years on the city payroll earns $42,931, but should be making $43,397 based on the target within the 30-year scale, which represents a $466 deficiency. This initial make-up allowance means he will make an extra $162 this year.

“Our priority down the road is to bring up the other 70 percent,” said City Manager Ray Gibson.