Crestwood Civil Service Board to discuss proposed pay plan

Eckrich recommends aldermen adopt plan, but delay salary adjustments for time being.

By EVAN YOUNG

Crestwood officials seem to agree a new pay plan for city employees is much needed but currently unaffordable.

A proposed pay plan was up for discussion by the Crestwood Civil Service Board Tuesday — after the Call went to press.

The proposed plan, which was crafted by a nine-member committee of city employees, is a six-step, length-of-service-based pay plan. The document includes starting salaries and yearly step increases for all positions.

It also provides for yearly adjustments to the starting salaries and step increases based upon the Consumer Price Index.

The city’s previous pay plan for employees was created in 2003 and repealed in 2007 because it no longer was affordable and had not been uniformly administered.

City Administrator Jim Eckrich wrote in a recent memo to Mayor Roy Robinson and the Board of Aldermen that while he believes the new plan is both understandable and equitable, he is recommending additional provisions to address the plan’s affordability and to give more control over it to the board.

Eckrich recommends that cost-of-living increases be considered in even years and step increases be considered in odd years. Also, the pay plan should be considered a planning document that does not guarantee pay adjustments, which must be approved by aldermen during the budget process, Eckrich wrote. Further, the plan should be reviewed every eight years, he stated.

Also at issue is how to implement the pay plan, the city administrator wrote, as a number of employees currently are “between steps.” A step increase would result in some employees receiving higher raises than others, he wrote.

Eckrich has recommended the board adopt the proposed pay plan but hold off on any salary adjustments for the time being.

“I fully understand that the adoption of (the pay plan) with no salary adjustment will be frustrating to a number of employees, including those who served on the committee,” Eckrich stated. “However, it bears pointing out that the city of Crestwood has weathered these tough economic times without salary cuts or furloughs of any kind. While the administration would prefer to reward employees financially for their excellent service, we do not want to do so at the risk of harming the city financially.”

Robinson had a similar opinion Sept. 14 when the board voted to send the pay plan to the Civil Service Board.

“As I’ve always stated, I know we’d like to have a pay plan for our employees but during … the years since I’ve been here we’ve had to think of it as a budget-driven item,” the mayor said. “I guess we need it to show where we probably should be, but there’s no way we can afford it … It’s probably a nice document to have, but I’d recommend we don’t approve anything to be enacted. Maybe it’d be good to have on the books so when the board sees fit they could move forward and put that thing into action.”

Ward 1 Alderman Mimi Duncan said, “It presents sort of a dilemma because how do you have something like this that our employees can look to, but then we can’t fund it? I just don’t have an answer, but I think we have to continue to be forward looking and perhaps this is a step in forward looking. Given how long sometimes it takes us to accomplish something on this board perhaps if we put it on the calendar at the end of this year it might happen next year.

“But I think we have to have something like this, but I don’t know how we do it without the money but making sure we know we value our employees with both their input into a plan like this and their value as employees of the city.”

Ward 3 Alderman Jerry Miguel said the document was a “step in the right direction” but called for a thorough review and further discussion. He suggested pay adjustments be merit-driven rather than based on years of service.

Eckrich addressed that issue in his memo, noting the city’s previous pay plan was merit-based, and the one before that was based on years of service. The “predominant opinion” among city employees is that Crestwood needs a pay plan driven by years of service, Eckrich wrote.

“While merit-based plans have value and are probably preferable in the private sector where performance can be more quantifiable, a length-of-service-based plan is simply more practical in a small-size municipality,” Eckrich stated.

Ward 4 Alderman Deborah Beezley said Sept. 14 the board needs to “start recognizing the valuable input that we have in our current staff,” such as that of the committee that prepared the pay plan.

“Because if we don’t, we’re going to lose them,” she said. “And it’s going to have to become a priority for us at some point in time very soon or we will start losing our critical staff … To continually rework, re-look and re-evaluate things that staff has prepared is a road I don’t think we should be continually going down.”

On the issue of no pay increases this year, Ward 1 Alderman Darryl Wallach suggested the city instead offer employees personal days. Eckrich replied that while vacation time is an option, it too carries a cost to the city.

Beezley said, “Employees are needing dollars. I don’t know how they would feel, but I think they’re looking for some kind of remuneration. And (earned time off) or a personal (day) probably isn’t going to cut it.”