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Editorial: City’s pay structure gets needed modification

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ONE of the key justifications for effective wage plans is the ability they give both public and private entities to attract skilled and experienced workers.

One of the key justifications for having within those wage plans the flexibility to appropriately compensate individuals for outstanding performances and/or responsibilities is the ability to keep them.

Columbus Mayor Kristen Brown and members of the City Council acted wisely in adhering to the latter approach in the 2014 salary ordinance that was approved last week.

The City Council approved the mayor’s proposal for a 2 percent raise for all full-time workers but also included part-time and seasonal workers in the pay bump. The mayor also sought raises of up to 7 percent for a handful of specific city officials.

About 40 of the city’s employees will receive raises larger than 2 percent for a variety of reasons, according to city officials.

The majority of the raises above 2 percent were proposed in the police department, as part of a continuing effort to differentiate the pay of supervisors from patrol officers. Under the approved plan, Police Chief Jason Maddix would receive a 4 percent pay raise, the deputy chief and two captains would receive a 7 percent raise, and nine lieutenants and 13 sergeants would receive a 6 percent raise.

The administration proposal also sought larger raises for Jeff Bergman, director of the city/county planning department, the assistant director and two senior planners. Officials said that the department has been doing excellent work and has been extremely involved in additional projects across city government and that the pay raises would put those employees in line with similar positions in the city engineer’s office and other communities.

The mayor proposed a pay raise and title change for Bryan Burton, the head of the city garage. When Brown took office, Burton was given more responsibility, but his title as garage manager was not changed. His pay was not increased either. For 2014, Burton’s title was changed to director of the city garage, and he will receive a 6 percent pay increase.

While the larger increases can be regarded as an acknowledgment of the performances of the individuals involved, they also can be seen as a differentiation in the compensation for a variety of administrative levels.

That differentiation was deemed to be too narrow under the old ordinance that officials felt did not provide adequate compensation for added responsibilities. A failure to appropriately recognize those responsibilities could narrow the aspirations of lower-level staff to advance to higher positions and not give those holding them a reason to stay in the face of attractive offers from employers in the private or public sectors.

While these changes do more appropriately align the pay differentiations with the responsibilities and skill levels needed, there are still some serious questions as to whether the city’s salary structure is comparable with governments in some other cities and the private sector.

In many respects, the supervisory requirements in most Columbus city government positions are equal to their counterparts in the private sector, where salaries are much higher.

To address that situation, more salary increases will need to be considered in the future.

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