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Oldsmar lags in workers' pay

A consulting firm that spent four months studying the salaries of city employees has concluded, among other things, that Oldsmar is fortunate to have many loyal, dedicated and hard-working employees who like their jobs.

That's because many of them are underpaid.

The city's pay scale needs to be bumped up to be more in line with what other municipalities and private companies pay for similar positions, according to the $21,000 study, which was conducted by the Arizona-based firm Public Sector Personnel Consultants.

The pay study also determined that 39 city employees are being paid below the recommended minimum of the salary range for their positions.

In response, city officials plan to spend about $62,000 bringing the salaries of those 39 employees to the minimum level for the fiscal year beginning in October.

Depending on how much their salaries are below the minimum, some employees are looking at yearly increases ranging from a few hundred dollars to about $6,700.

"Some of them will get a pretty hefty pay raise," Oldsmar Mayor Jerry Beverland said. "But think about this: Some of them have been underpaid for years."

The company interviewed 102 full-time city employees for the study. It did not include Oldsmar firefighters because they are union employees.

The study was presented to the City Council last week. At that meeting, council members reached an informal consensus to bring all of the salaries to the minimum level and to work at getting the salaries to the midpoint of the ranges in the next three years.

According to the study, 89 employees are below the midpoint of the salary ranges for their positions. It would cost the city about $376,000 to bring all of those workers to the midpoint. For some employees, that would translate to an annual pay increase of more than $8,000.

"I expected that the study would indicate we were below market with some positions," City Manager Bruce Haddock said. "I think the number of positions that are in that category is a little higher than I anticipated."

The firm took a sampling of 37 positions in the city and compared the salaries of those jobs with other municipalities in the area and with the private sector. The study determined that 90 percent of the Oldsmar jobs that were surveyed were below the salaries offered by other employers.

The study used salary statistics from more than a dozen municipalities in the Tampa Bay area, including Clearwater, Dunedin and Safety Harbor.

"Overall, (Oldsmar's) employee salaries were low," Robert Miles, who conducted the study for the firm, told council members.

Miles recommended that the city stop its practice of giving employees a 2 percent cost-of-living increase at the start of every fiscal year. The reason for that, he said, is because pay scales of different jobs move differently over time. Some go up faster than others.

That is why some of the employees fell below the minimum, Miles said.

"Everyone has been treated the same, and jobs have moved differently within the market," Miles said.

Haddock said he will recommend to council members that the city replace its method of across-the-board increases with one of the pay plans suggested by the study. The firm recommends moving the salaries of those furthest from the midpoint at a faster pace than those who are paid nearer or above the midpoint.

"The study showed us that just doing flat annual increases across the board and (combining) that with the changes in the marketplace makes it easy for our pay scale to get out of skew with the marketplace," said City Council member David Tilki. "If we are going to be competitive in the marketplace, we have to offer comparable packages."

Making the city's salaries competitive not only will help attract qualified employees, Beverland said, it also will help the city keep workers from leaving to better-paying jobs.

"Of course we want to attract the best we can, but we also want to keep the best we got," Beverland said. "That is very important."

The city hasn't had a problem with turnover in the past year, Haddock said, but that's probably because the tough economy has made job openings in general more scarce.

"Two or three years ago, it was very difficult to hire entry-level positions, particularly in maintenance-type jobs" Haddock said. "It was really tough finding somebody for those jobs."

It's also tough to keep replacing employees who leave for higher-paying jobs, Haddock said. Not only does the city lose worker experience when that happens, but it also is costly to hire and screen job applicants.

"That's why you want to keep people," Haddock said. "Because their experience translates hopefully into doing a better job. Certainly, we are in the service business and the employees are key to everything that we do."

Findings of Oldsmar city pay study

Number of full-time Oldsmar

employees surveyed 102

Total annual payroll $3,062,618

Number of employees below minimum

of salary range paid by other employers 39

Number of employees between

minimum and midpoint of range 50

Number of employees between

midpoint and maximum of range 11

Number of employees above

maximum of range 2

_ SOURCE: Public Sector Personnel Consultants.