WM employee raises go into effect

Council, committees still working through 2016 budget

By John Rech news@theeveningtimes.com

Earlier this month, West Memphis city employees received their first paychecks with the 3-percent raise the West Memphis City Council approved late last year. The council voted for the across-the-board raise for all municipal workers after the Utilities Commission asked for a double-digit increase to its payroll budget last summer. Acting instead in the interest of fairness to all city workers, they sent the Utility’s recommendation back to the Budget Committee and asked for a city-wide position-by-position wage, salary and benefits comparison, measuring West Memphis’ pay scale against similarly-sized cities. While the comparison study is still out, the new wages and salaries have been banked by city workers. City jobs are organized into 14 pay classes. The starting city wage for a janitor, laborer, library clerk, receptionist and sewer pump trainee had been $8.95 per hour. With the blanket raise, that hourly rate moved up to $9.21. After annual step raises for four years, in this lowest pay category, employees making $11.31 increased to $11.65. A Level 10 employee (Street Department mower operator. Animal Shelter helper, typists and service mechanics) with five years of experience saw their pay rate bumped to $12.25 per hour on regular time and $18.39 on overtime. Class 13 jobs like Street Crew leader, truck driver and Sanitation relief driver now earn $14.25. When called in for overtime to clean up after a storm, the overtime hourly rate is $21.38. The top hourly job class in the city is for a journeyman meterman, now making $22.87 per hour. City Councilman Willis Mondy went to bat for Street Department workers earlier this month, seeking an additional raise for those employees during the Jan. 5 Public Works Commission meeting. Mondy said workers some were making just $8.95 per hour, although the city pay scale suggested higher wages. Mondy inquired specifically about using reserve to fund a department specific raise. Public Works chair, City Councilwoman Ramona Taylor pointed out the city-wide position by position pay review was under study and prevailed in asking Mondy to await the results of that study before making another request. In recent weeks, city workers received a 3-percent annual bonus in time for holiday shopping. This was in addition to the 3-percent raise that showed up on Jan. 15 paychecks. Each of those 3-percent payouts represents an additional $400,000 in city expenditures. With a pending request for an additional average 11 percent pay increase for utility workers waiting for city council approval, another benchmark raise is under review in a wage, salary and benefit comparison study for all the other city departments. With work on the benchmark analysis incomplete, city council moved in late December to pass a one month budget, including the 3-percent blanket raise for January, with a full annual budget due by the end of the month.

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