N. Ogden looking closely at employee benefits, severance

Aug 4 2013 - 11:56pm

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NORTH OGDEN -- The city manager and some of his staff are closely scrutinizing employee benefits and wages and may bring the compensation committee back for a little help as well.

The city is also looking at changing its severance policy for employees.

Earlier this year, a compensation committee, composed of some employees and mostly residents, did an in-depth study of employee benefits and wages and told the city council that most employees were being underpaid, and some quite significantly.

The city council directed the staff to do more research before it made any adjustments to salaries. The staff is working on the main recommendation made as a result of the study though -- a policy statement about where the city stands with regard to employee benefits and wages.

City Manager Ron Chandler said several core values in its mission statement include that: North Ogden is committed to attracting and attaining employees; North Ogden recognizes it needs to follow the fluctuating economy with regard to employees; and North Ogden needs to use and recognize technology in regard to obtaining and retaining employees.

Chandler and his staff are examining how long employees have been in positions and what their salaries are, as well as other demographics, such as what other cities pay, what the private sector pays and what benefits employees are receiving.

Chandler hopes to bring some results to the council by September. The council wants to be able to make some kind of salary adjustments by next year's budget.

One item the council wants to change before then is the severance package. The way the severance package works was brought to the attention of the council in the spring, when the council was considering privatizing some services. It decided not to, in part because of the huge severance package that would need to be paid to some employees under the "reduction in force" clause. It states in the policies and procedures manual that employees will be paid two weeks of regular pay, plus one month of pay for each year of the employee's service with the city, provided that the employee's years of service shall be rounded down to the next whole number for purposes of calculating this severance pay. For example, an employee who has worked for the city four years will receive four months of severance pay.

"In the private sector, this is unheard of," City Councilman Justin Fawson said of the severance package.

Another problem with the severance is that Chandler cannot find exactly when the policy was adopted so that it can be revoked.

"We know when it was, and when it wasn't," Chandler said. The policy first shows up in 2002.

"We would like to know where this policy came from," Chandler said.

Council members would like the city to find out what legal means would be required to change the policy and to do it soon.

"This amount of severance is too generous, and the likelihood that we have a reduction in force is too minimal," City Councilman Brent Taylor said about keeping the policy on the books. "We need to look at other companies and find out what they offer."

Fawson suggested having the compensation committee do some research on the topic as well.

"We need to take some action to limit the city's liability," Councilman Kent Bailey said.

The council and staff are wondering how changing the policy would affect those who are planning on the severance if they are laid off, which is something that is still to be determined.

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