City salary study useful tool for attracting good employees

At different times in recent years, the City of Columbus has seen good employees leave for higher-paying jobs in the private sector. As this has happened, different city administrations have shared a common goal of keeping good, hard-working employees serving the city’s taxpayers.

With more than 400 city-government employees, it’s important for elected leaders to know that worker pay is fair and can compete with private industry as a local employer of choice. That was the impetus for the city authorizing a review of its employee salaries and pay scales.

The Columbus Board of Works awarded two contracts to McCordsville-based Total Rewards Solutions: $33,250 to study employee pay from the general fund, and $12,675 to study city public safety employees pay.

Also, the city’s parks and utilities boards are considering contracts with Total Rewards Solutions to study their employee pay scales — at a cost of $11,325 for parks and $15,225 for utilities.

The consulting company will compare the salaries of Columbus against eight peer cities in Indiana that have similar characteristics: Greenwood, Bloomington, Jeffersonville, New Albany, Noblesville, Terre Haute and Lafayette and Kokomo.

It’s been almost a decade since the most recent salary study was done for Columbus government workers, and the results of that 2008 study weren’t even implemented.

Not having competitive pay has contributed to high turnover among other local government entities, which can have negative repercussions — something no employer, private or public, wishes to go through.

While the cost of this upcoming salary study — more than $72,000 — is a concern, and taxpayers would probably appreciate a cheaper process, we support the idea of finding out how Columbus compares to peer cities for pay and whether pay levels for local government are fair and competitive.

Such a study is a useful tool in evaluating city-worker compensation so relevant comparative information can be applied to local efforts to attract and retain talented employees. As private employers strive to hire and keep good people, local government must do the same in order to best serve the public.