Athens City Council met in committee Monday to discuss the 2022 Pay Study conducted by Ron Lucas, the city’s director of human resources, and compensation and benefits, among other topics.
The Finance and Personnel Committee Chairman, Sam Crowl, D-3rd Ward, brought forward the non-union member pay study for discussion to begin the meeting. The study began in 2020 and examined two positions within each of the city’s pay bands, Lucas said.
The study results recommend a consolidation of pay bands one and two and an addition of another band, resulting in 12 pay bands within city staff. Along with a recommendation of consolidation, the study recommends 13 of 58 city employees should be shifted from one pay band to another. Such a move would not be up or down, but rather a lateral move, Lucas said.
Lucas emphasized the need for reconciliation of pay for certain positions, such as between the water treatment plant manager and the wastewater treatment plant manager. The water plant manager has been employed by the city for one year and is paid at a rate of $30.89 per hour, whereas the wastewater plant manager has been employed by the city for six years and only makes $0.12 more an hour at $31.01 per hour. Lucas said Council is being asked to move the pay rate of that position up based on years of experience, and do the same with any other positions in the city facing a similar situation.
The Finance and Personnel Committee also discussed two possible incentive programs for city employees.
The first incentive program consists of opportunities for non-union staff members to gain further education or certification through the city. Full-time, non-union staff members who have been with the city for one year or more would be eligible to receive one degree and up to two certifications paid for by the city.
The degree or certification cannot be something required to be qualified for the job, but must be related to their position in some way. How well a particular program relates and if it meets requirements will be determined on a case by case basis, Lucas said.
The committee expressed support for the program, however, council members Crowl and Micah McCarey, D-At Large, brought forward concerns regarding the city budget’s ability to cover the cost of such education for employees.
The committee also discussed an incentive program featuring bonuses for non-union city staff members. The program would be merit-based and would allow staff supervisors to award one-time bonuses each year to those determined to be high achieving through yearly staff evaluations, Lucas said.
Councilwoman Arian Smedley, D-1st Ward, brought forward concerns regarding the subjectivity of such evaluations and rewards, as did Councilman Jeff Risner, D-2nd Ward. Risner brought up his concerns about such a program decreasing employee morale rather than boosting it. Additionally, Risner said he would currently vote against the program.
Athens City Auditor Kathy Hecht countered Risner and Smedley’s points, saying she believes the program is needed to reward those going above and beyond in their job.
Multiple other council members agreed with Risner and Smedley and discussed the meaning and ramifications of such a program at length.
Council also heard from the City and Safety Services Committee, the Planning Committee and the Transportation Committee during its meeting.