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Study results recommend fair market changes: City upgrades employee salaries

West Fargo City Commissioners went on record Monday night adopting salary changes for some of it employees as the result of the findings of a compensation and job analysis study project implemented approximately three months ago. Kaye Tilzer of Public Sector Personnel Consultants was present at the meeting to convey the findings and its recommendations that ultimately involved updating job titles and minor tweaking of pay plans for some of the city’s 118 employees to the tune of approximately $82,000 for this year, making for a more equitable, competitive salary plan.

The study, which involved salary only and not benefits, included a survey of employees, actual sit down sessions with approximately 67 of them to learn job responsibilities, as well as a comparison of other city salary plans for positions similar to those in West Fargo.

Ultimately, 99 titles in use were consolidated into 58 job classes.

As for salary comparables, a mid-point of the highest and lowest steps was taken with the city competitive for 62 percent of the survey of job classes.

A 20-step process is currently being used by the city of West Fargo, with 23 employees determined to be below the minimum step; four employees with nine years of service were below midpoint ; 90 employees were between the crack needing to be bumped up to the next step; and five employees were above maximum.

Mayor Rich Mattern said he was surprised by the results. “This study actually turned out better than I thought especially with what I’ve seen. I was fearing the worst and it came out much better. In the long run, we are in pretty good shape with salary and compensation packages.”

The final recommendation was to increase salaries to bring the employees earmarked up to par with the findings of the study. The commission approved the expenditure which will go into effect July 7, 2013. Future hikes, involving twice the amount for an entire year, will be looked at during annual budget processes.

City Administrator Jim Brownlee noted that social security and retirement would also be part of the picture with those numbers bringing the amount to less than $100,000. He also added that the study was not an evaluation or raise process. “We were strictly looking at the market. This was never meant to be a raise or reduction. Overall, it shows that most of the employees are being paid pretty close to market.”

The commission approved the action by a 4-1 count with City Commissioner Mark Simmons voting “no.” Even though he initially favored the study, in hindsight, Simmons now questioned the need stating the city already has an excellent salary and benefit plan in place with no hiring problems. “We always have plenty of job candidates.” He also felt that benefits should have been considered as part of the survey. “I thought the benefit package should have been included with this. How can you do a pay study without adding benefits in? A lot of people work for the benefits and the city has a great package and that counts for a lot.”

Commissioners also conducted a public hearing on Street Improvement District No. 2226 involving the installation of a traffic signal on the corner of 9th Street East and 19th Avenue East at which no one voiced protest.

Over the past several years residents and businesses have requested a signal at the location and now with new development in place and more imminent with an impending hotel and conference center, installation of such a signal has been warranted by the city.

The commissioners approved the plan and awarded the contract to Moorhead Electric with a low bid of $294,787.55. The engineer’s estimate was $259,350.

The signal is expected to be in place and operational by Aug. 15 in time for the start of the new school year.

The Commission also approved:

•awarded contracts for: Sewer, Water, Storm and Street Improvement District No. 1248, River’s Bend at Preserve 1st Addition, to Dakota Underground Co., Fargo, for their base bid plus alternate B for a total bid of $4,355,229.47, the engineer’s estimate was $4,950,000. Plan B involved using concrete instead of asphalt. and Sewer, Water, Storm and Street Improvement District No. 1251, Eaglewood 2nd Addition, to Dakota Underground Co., Fargo, with a low bid of $2,383,052.39, engineer’s estimate was $2,386,000. This contract was awarded contingent upon the developer satisfying necessary platting requirements.