Mebane’s city council authorized large raises for most city employees this week, as well as an early “cost-of-living” raise of three percent to all employees, in response to a salary compensation study that a consultant has worked on since last fall.
Approximately 61 percent of Mebane municipal employees (89 out of 146) will receive raises of between 5 to 15 percent, at an annual cost of $263,487 – or $87,829 for the final four months of the current fiscal year, with raises to be implemented March 1.
Almost half of that amount, $125,000, would be targeted to the police department, the consultant estimated. Another $68,000 will go to public works and public utilities; and $35,000 to the city’s fire department.
The three percent cost-of-living for all employees will cost $106,659. The federal government announced at the end of December, that the cost of living had increased approximately 7 percent during the past year, the highest rate in about 40 years.
Some local governments and government agencies have expressed concerns about escalating turnover rates; the county’s commissioners gave significant raises to three county agencies with higher-than-average turner rates before Christmas – detention officers within the EMT workers (11.5 percent); social service workers (25 percent); and detention officers within the sheriff’s office (33 percent.
Mebane’s turnover rates are actually lower than most cities and declining.
According to information provided based on a public records request from The Alamance News, Mebane’s turnover rate declined from 12 percent in fiscal year 2021 (July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021) to 6 percent in the current fiscal year, according to Beatrice H. Hunter, the city’s human resources director.
“While it appears that the numbers are trending downward,” Hunter said, “it has become exceedingly more difficult to recruit staff into the vacancies that we have.”
Susan Manning, the consultant hired by Mebane, identified public works, public utilities, and police as the city’s departments experiencing recruitment and retention challenges. Police departments across the state, she added, are among those experiencing the stiffest challenges to get and keep qualified personnel.
Manning compared Mebane salaries with those in what she termed “benchmark communities.” The comparisons involved the following counties, municipalities, and one public utility: Alamance and Orange counties, Archdale, Burlington, Carrboro, Chapel Hill, Elon, Graham, Greensboro, High Point, Hillsborough, Holly Springs, Knightdale, Morrisville, Thomasville, and the Orange Water and Sewer Authority.
Manning concluded that 18 classifications within Mebane’s city departments were competitive with the market (consisting of the 17 “comparable” government entities above), while 23 other classifications were below the market.
Manning said that with local McDonald’s paying $14 to $16 per hour, the need to raise Mebane salaries to a “living wage” of $15 per hour was necessary.
According to Manning, eight of Mebane’s management classifications were among the 23 below market level (including, according to Manning, the finance director, the fire chief, police chief, and inspections director); four administrative and professional categories (including the city clerk); seven of 11 labor, trades and technical categories (including equipment operators, maintenance workers, maintenance technicians, public works supervisor, and utilities crew chief); and four public safety classes (including most police officers and investigators).
In the 18 categories that were at market level, Manning said: three management areas (including public works director and assistant city manager); five administrative & professional classes (including the city’s accountant and planner); four labor trades and technical classes (including building code inspector, code enforcement officer, wastewater treatment operator); and six public safety classes (including firefighters, fire engineers, fire captain, police sergeant, lieutenant, and captains) were all competitive with the “benchmark communities.”
With respect to police, Manning emphasized that much of the problem is statewide. “You want to hang on to the good people that you have,” Manning said, “because right now it’s very difficult to go out and recruit.”
Manning recommended that most salaries be increased by 5 percent, except for police and public works where higher increases, more like 10 percent, are needed.
Manning also gave a plug for Mebane to undertake a salary compensation study more frequently, every two to three years, rather than the gap since the last one was performed in 2013 to 2014. Manning’s study cost $10,000, city manager Chris Rollins told The Alamance News.
Council member Patty Philipps expressed surprise that it had been seven to eight years since the previous salary study, “Time just really slips by,” she said, admitting that she thought the last study had been within two to three years. She also noted that it was the first time she could remember during her 19 year tenure when the city manager was recommending a mid-year COLA.
Tim Bradley added that the council had prided itself of having well-paid staff. “It’s a little discouraging that we’ve slipped and gotten a little behind,” Bradley said.
Rollins told council members that the city is “beating the bushes,” actually making “cold calls” to try to entice private sector employees to consider applying for some of the vacancies in the city’s staff.
Rollins wanted to get an increase in the COLA now (he recommended 3 percent), while adding another COLA in the regular budget, which he will propose later this spring and which will take effect July 1.
The council voted unanimously for Philipps’ motion to implement the recommendations of the pay study and to include a 3 percent COLA, both to take effect March 1.
OTHER NEWS FROM FEBRUARY 7 MEBANE CITY COUNCIL MEETING IN THIS WEEK’S EDITION OF THE ALAMANCE NEWS AND ON ALAMANCENEWS.COM:
Council veteran Patty Philipps says she will resign next month, plans to move from area: https://alamancenews.com/long-time-mebane-council-member-patty-philipps-to-resign-move-from-mebane/
Council adopts new prayer policy, 4-1; local clery will open prayer at council meetings, rather than council members: https://alamancenews.com/mebane-city-council-adopts-new-policy-4-1-to-allow-clergy-to-pray-at-council-meetings/