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Portage council considers new pay plan for city workers

January 10, 2018 GMT

A “handful” of Portage city employees could see a spike in their paychecks next month, if the Common Council adopts a new pay plan for non-union-represented employees.

Altogether, said City Administrator Shawn Murphy, about 50 city workers will be subject to the compensation guidelines in the 19-grade pay system designed by the Madison consulting firm Carlson Dettmann – the same entity that prepared Columbia County’s job classification and compensation system, implemented in 2015.

The Common Council is expected to consider adopting the pay system at its Jan. 25 meeting. If that happens, Murphy said, employees who are entitled to bumps in pay will get them right away. At any rate, nobody’s pay is going down, he said.

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Murphy said some of those workers have been determined to be underpaid, based on comparisons to counterparts in comparable cities.

For them, there’s parity pay.

Murphy told the city’s Human Resources Committee on Tuesday that workers who have been employed by the city for five years or more, and whose compensation has been found to be more than 10 percent below the control point (regional average) in their respective pay grades, may be entitled to “catch-up” adjustments.

These adjustments, he said, would be separate from, and in addition to, any raise they might earn for meeting or exceeding the expectations of their job descriptions.

Some of the circumstances under which an employee might get parity pay include:

The city’s need to retain “mission-critical” employees, whose skills or experience are crucial to the city’s high-priority projects.Restructuring in a department that results in an employee taking on more responsibility, but not enough additional responsibility to warrant moving the employee to a higher pay grade.Collective bargaining agreements (such as those with sworn police officers) that result in pay increases in which the rank and file are paid almost as much as, or more than, their supervisors.A new hire coming in at a higher rate of pay than that of an existing employee.

A parity pay increase, Murphy said, should never exceed 7 percent a year, and it should stop once the employee’s compensation reaches the midpoint of his or her pay grade.

Mayor Rick Dodd, chairman of the Human Resources Committee, said parity pay increases should be short term, if the compensation system works as it’s designed to do.

“Parity pay should eventually go away,” he said. “It’s going to take care of stuff.”

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Unlike Columbia County’s system, the city’s system is not a wholesale overhaul of current pay practices. Such an overhaul was needed in the county because a 2011 law eliminated most collective bargaining rights for most public employees, and more than 400 county employees who were formerly represented by unions no longer had their compensation determined by collective bargaining.

Rather, Murphy said, the city’s new system is designed to formalize and create guidelines for the city’s existing practice of giving larger pay increases to employees who exceed the expectations of their jobs.

Each of the pay grades – S being the highest, A being the lowest – has a minimum level, at which a new hire would typically start (although there are provisions for experienced or exceptionally qualified new hires to start at higher pay); a midpoint, which is at or close to the average pay for comparable workers in comparable cities; and a maximum.

There are no city employees classified currently in grades A through E and grades O and R, but those grades are included in the pay plan to make room for the possibility that a city job created in the future could land in those pay grades, based on a point system that factors in things such as skills, duties and education or certification requirements.