A total of 157 Kent city employees could be getting pay hikes that will cost about $1.3 million next year under a proposal approved by a City Council committee.
Many of the nearly 254 employees who work under the non-represented group could see pay jumps in January after the city’s first review of annual salaries in more than 10 years.
“Those positions recommended for salary increases are those 1 or more percent below the market average,” said Marty Fisher, city human resources director, in a report to the council’s Operations Committee on Sept. 5. “For those positions whose salaries are above market average or within 1 percent or less from the market average, no increase or decrease is recommended.”
The council last fall approved a salary review by having a task force look at what other comparable cities pay employees in similar jobs. The council wants to make sure the city keeps employees and attracts new workers. Kent compared its salaries to the cities of Auburn, Bellevue, Everett, Federal Way, Kirkland, Redmond, Olympia and Renton.
“We have some great workers,” Council President Bill Boyce said at the committee meeting. “We don’t want to wait another 10 years (for the next salary survey). We have lost a lot of quality people the last couple of years.”
Fisher recommended the city start to do salary surveys every three years.
In an email response to the Kent Reporter about the pay hikes, Fisher said the increases are necessary.
“This process is a critical step toward ensuring equity between union-represented employees who can bargain for their needs and non-represented employees who cannot,” Fisher said about the Teamsters and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) represented positions in the city, including police officers. “And while we definitely do take the concerns about the upcoming fiscal cliff very seriously, that fact should not exempt us from paying fair market wages to all of our employees.”
The fiscal cliff refers to $4.7 million (starting in 2020) the city is expected to lose that it receives each year from the state for the Panther Lake annexation in 2010. Kent also could lose in the near future about $5 million per year it gets from the state (streamlined sales tax mitigation) to help compensate for revenue lost when legislators changed the state in 2008 from an origin-based system for local retail sales tax to a destination-based system, gutting the tax revenue the city received from its large warehouse district.
The jobs that could see pay jumps are under the departments of administration, courts, public works, finance, economic and community development, human resources, parks and information technology.
The proposal goes to the full seven-member council on Sept. 19. The item is expected to be placed on the consent calendar, which means the council won’t discuss the proposal. The council will vote on the pay hike approval along with numerous other items considered non-controversial.
“We have a problem with people leaving (jobs with the city),” Councilwoman Dana Ralph said about the 57 employees who left in 2016.
Under the proposal, the pay increases start in January and will cost an estimated $1.3 million. The council will use about $729,000 from the general fund and $613,000 from other funds, including the sewer/drainage fund ($371,000), the water fund ($144,000) and several smaller funds.
“One key missing in talks is there is no additional revenue stream to come in to cover this,” Councilman Les Thomas said to Fisher, the human resources director. “That’s not your job, but the pressure we are looking at is how to pay for all of this?”
Any solution about how to pay for the increases reportedly will be worked out by the council in budget talks later this year.
”I get it,” Boyce said about where the funds will be found with no new revenue sources. “But I want to be clear, we need to pay our people or we will lose them.”
Boyce suggested possibly phasing in the pay hikes.
“Some are big increases,” Boyce said. “Maybe we can look at a step process to get to a point. I know we have to fix it, but some are huge salary increases.”
Fisher said the city’s task force on the salary survey didn’t consider phasing in the pay jumps.
“From a competitive standpoint and retention (of employees), I would not recommend doing it,” Fisher said.
Boyce, Ralph and Thomas serve on the Operations Committee and each voted to approve the pay hikes.
Several of the largest costs in annual pay increases are in public works:
• $81,228 total increases for seven engineer II jobs; new pay $99,492 per year
• $72,120 for five engineering supervisor jobs; new pay $124,128 per year
• $47,304 for six engineer tech I jobs; new pay $68,652 per year
A few of the largest individual annual pay hikes also were in public works and include:
• $16,884 for a deputy city engineer and a deputy operations manager; new pay $147,240 per year
• $15,756 for a construction manager and a special project manager; new pay $136,884 per year
Other large individual annual pay hikes include:
• $13,716 for a deputy director of economic and community development and a deputy finance director, new pay $147,240 per year