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‘Our top priority’: Ogden again looking to boost employee pay

By Deborah Wilber - | Mar 19, 2022

Photo supplied, Ogden Fire Department

Firefighters mop up a fire in the 500 block of West 12th Street in Ogden on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020. Ogden Fire Department Battalion Chief Corey Barton said the fire was ignited by sparks from cars being moved in a salvage yard.

OGDEN — Pay for city employees is poised to take another step forward.

Following on the heels of compensation adjustments implemented in 2021, a new request by Ogden City administration would see general employees and sworn firefighters advance further along new pay grades and also bestow a 2% cost of living increase.

Fiscal year 2022 mid-year wage adjustments, the final stage in addressing compensation discrepancies within city government ranks, are tentatively scheduled to go before the City Council on April 5.

Ogden Fire Deputy Chief Mike Slater said recruitment and retention in the department is difficult. The department recently hired six firefighters and is still short nine more, he said.

Slater said he is grateful for the support his department has received from the city and council members and for how they are adapting to the ongoing labor shortage, which he said has forced firefighters to work more hours.

“It is only a temporary fix,” Slater said. “The stress over the last three years has been hard.”

In the midst of “the great resignation,” employee retention and recruitment continue to be a challenge, said Leslie Judkins, human resources risk manager for Ogden City. According to Judkins, city employees are resigning to make more money at other agencies.

“We are losing people right and left,” Ogden City Chief Administrative Officer Mark Johnson said.

At the city’s request, a Florida consulting firm, Evergreen Solutions, performed a classification and compensation study in 2019. The study indicated Ogden City employees are not being compensated based on the benchmark, coming in well below the nationwide average.

In an effort to recognize employees for their hard work, city administrators implemented a three-phase approach to expanding pay ranges and increasing pay range schedules.

“Our city employees are our top priority,” Judkins said.

The City Council approved phase one in April 2021, providing city employees with a 4% salary and pay range adjustment. Full-time employees received a one-time lump sum stipend.

In July 2021, phase two was implemented for salary tables and pay ranges. All employees received additional pay hikes to place them at the new grade minimum or closest step.

Phase three for sworn police personnel was completed in November 2021. Sworn police moved a full progression step with an adjusted salary structure to stay competitive with other law enforcement agencies.

Ogden City Police Chief Eric Young said compensation pay must be evaluated continuously to stay competitive with the market due to the nature of police work and current economic conditions.

The new competitive pay plan had a significant affect on officers, according to Young.

“I would describe it as relief and excitement because many of them were being forced to look at employment opportunities with other agencies based only on pay discrepancies when they wanted to work for Ogden,” he said.

After the new plan was initiated, four officers returned to OPD in addition to two retired officers looking to return, Young said. The department reported a 400% increase in the number of lateral officers since the plan was instituted, six have been hired so far.

Judkins said they are looking into employee compensation for the coming fiscal year, which starts July 1, but it is too soon to know what the numbers will look like.

“We are way behind and we know it,” Johnson said. The city is making plans to do more, he added, but right now they cannot compete with the market.

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