Syracuse considers merit pay for city workers

Sep 30 2012 - 9:35pm

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SYRACUSE -- Faced with the reality of the lowest wage scale among departments in Davis County, Police Chief Brian Wallace is having troubling holding on to his work force.

In the past week he has received notice he is losing three men, two to Kaysville and one to Bountiful, as his officers find better offers elsewhere.

City officials want to stop the trend and address a citywide issue of helping city employees be compensated in a fair way. They have talked about potentially offering merit increases before the end of the fiscal year June 30, 2013. City employees have not had a pay raise since 2007.

The city council debated the possibility of reopening the budget in early 2013 to consider merit increases for some city workers. This discussion continued for more than an hour Tuesday, as part of a two-hour update on the budget.

The city's financial picture continues to brighten, and Mayor Jamie Nagle and City Manager Robert Rice said it's time the people who have made that happen be appropriately compensated.

"I just find it problematic that we have asked our associates to do so much. They have sacrificed, they have sacrificed a lot. You're always going to have to invest in your employees. We invest in their training and we can't retain them," Nagle said. She said taking steps to retain city staff is being responsible with taxpayer dollars.

Rice said city employees have bought into the concept of making the city run more efficiently.

"If you look at the city as a business, the employees have made the business stronger," Rice said.

Councilman Brian Duncan asked staff to get comparisons on wage scales of other cities the size of Syracuse along the Wasatch Front. He said being competitive is the issue.

Councilwoman Karianne Lisonbee worried that setting aside money to give merit increases could potentially hurt the city down the road. She said she talks to many residents who haven't had a pay increase for years in their jobs in the private sector.

"It might be unwise to commit to that kind of capital outlay for 10 years," Lisonbee said.

In the meantime, Fire Chief Eric Froerer also shares in Wallace's challenge of hanging on to good people. He said, "There's a cost to losing talent. You can't just hire talent and experience."

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