Officials proposing $1,000 pay raise for all Crestwood employees in 2009

Eckrich says before his promotion, personnel matters lacked consistency

By BURKE WASSON

Crestwood officials are proposing at least a $1,000 annual salary raise for all city employees in 2009 while also eliminating some administrative positions.

City Administrator Jim Eckrich last week told the Ways and Means Committee that Assistant City Administrator Brian Gross had resigned, effective Friday.

Gross was hired in 2007.

With Gross’ resignation, Eckrich is recommending that the position of assistant city administrator be cut from the 2009 budget. That move would save $70,000 in annual salary.

“I want to see how this goes,” Eckrich said. “If I need somebody, I think that later on in the year we could look at that. I wouldn’t recommend an assistant city administrator making $70,000 … I’d recommend something more like an assistant to the city administrator somewhere in the salary range of $40,000 … But I don’t want to recommend moving that way as part of the budget. I want to see what we have here and what we can utilize.”

Besides not budgeting for an assistant city administrator in 2009, Eckrich has recommended cutting the position of management analyst held by Nik Degler. That move would save $36,000 in annual salary. He was hired in the spring.

Eckrich also said while he would be assuming most of the job duties performed by the assistant city administrator, there are other employees who will be given more responsibility along with a slight pay increase on top of the $1,000 annual salary raise for all employees.

“I will caution that there are roles that the assistant city administrator performed that will necessarily have to be done,” Eckrich said. “I will assume most of those … There are a few other employees that may have their roles changed slightly. So I may be recommending additional payments to a couple employees. I would not expect those to be big. I’d expect them to come in under $5,000. So we’re still looking at a substantial savings.”

Along with this administrative restructuring comes the proposed $1,000 annual salary raise in 2009 for all employees to offset cost-of-living increases. While the cost of those raises adds up to roughly a 2.5-percent salary increase across the board, Eckrich said he prefers a “lump-sum” raise to treat all employees equally rather than percentage raises.

“Personally, I prefer a dollar figure instead of a percentage,” he said. “… We’re talking about a situation where we haven’t had merit adjustments for several years. I think the employees that are affected the most are given the least. If you give a percentage raise, people at the top get a higher amount and people at the bottom get lower amounts.

“There’s a perceived inequity. I’d prefer if we just go with a straight dollar figure and everybody gets treated the same.”

Some employees would also receive additional salary adjustments on top of their $1,000 annual raises.

Among the promotions are Accountant Douglas Brewer being named finance officer, formerly held by the assistant city administrator. As finance officer, Brewer “will oversee all aspects of the Finance Department, including creation of budgets.” Brewer will receive an annual salary increase from $52,000 to $62,200. Brewer’s annual salary will rise to $64,000 upon his successful passage of the Certified Public Accountant exam. Brewer’s promotion does not require Board of Aldermen approval as he is a classified employee.

Eckrich also is proposing personnel changes in the Public Services Department by recommending that his former position of public services director be split back into two positions — parks and recreation director and director of public works. Eckrich was promoted in July from public services director to city administrator.

While cutting the position of public services director would save $107,090, including benefits, Recreation Manager Amy Meyer would be promoted to parks and recreation director and Assistant Director of Public Works Dzenana Mruckovski would be promoted to director of public works.

Meyer’s previous position as recreation manager would be cut and her promotion would result in a net annual cost increase of $15,232, including benefits.

Mruckovski’s previous position as assistant director of public works also would be eliminated and replaced by an engineering technician at an annual cost of $45,000. Her annual salary would jump from $59,200 to $69,700. That salary would rise to $72,300 “once becoming fully functional in planning and zoning related matters, and then to a final salary of $75,000 once obtaining her professional engineer’s license.”

Besides these promotions, Eckrich has proposed salary increases for three employees to correct past inequities.

Eckrich stated in a Sept. 26 memo: “… I have found that, prior to my promotion, personnel matters were not always dealt with consistently, and that several employees require salary adjustments in order to be treated fairly.”

Given that, Eckrich has proposed that Court Administrator Tami Trulove receive a 2-percent annual salary increase, or $900, “because she should have been moved from 90 percent of her job value to 92 percent of her job value once she completed her probationary period in January of 2007.”

City Clerk Tina Flowers would also receive a 2-percent annual raise, or $1,100, plus $2,000. While her salary is being adjusted “to ensure that she is treated in the same manner as the Police Department employees who were raised from 88 percent to 90 percent of their job value,” she also will receive a $2,000 annual raise because of “increased responsibilities related to the supervision of the municipal court.”

In addition, a building-maintenance technician will receive a 2-percent annual salary increase, or $750, to make sure his salary is treated in the same manner as Police Department employees’ raises.

Aldermen awarded pay adjustments to 10 Police Department employees this year. Police Chief Michael Paillou has explained that five of the pay adjustments were due to making up for officers who had been hired at 88 percent of average pay instead of the city’s standard of 90 percent of average pay. He also told aldermen the other five pay increases were given to officers who had not received raises “due to mismanagement” when the city adopted a pay plan in 2002. That pay plan now is shelved.

Ward 4 Alderman Steve Nieder recently questioned if any other employees were owed pay adjustments.

After reviewing the matter, Eckrich is confident that there are no more salary corrections to be made.

“I’ve gone through personnel files, talked to department heads and we cannot find anyone else in the entire city that falls into the same categories as people who have been adjusted,” he said. “This corrects this issue to the best of everyone’s knowledge.”