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Staffers in Madeira Beach look for raises

(ran Beach edition)

After months in limbo, some of the city's top administrators may get raises in the new year.

The City Commission voted 5-1 Tuesday to restore the city manager's authority to grant raises. The vote also increased the salary ranges for the city's highest paid administrators, as well as for all employees.

The lone dissenting voice was Commissioner Martha Boos, who argued that paying combined salaries and benefits of nearly $100,000 for an employee was too much for residents, many on fixed incomes, to swallow.

"This is getting very, very rich for a city our size. It's ridiculous," she said.

Six administrators in the top pay grades have had their salaries frozen since September, when the City Commission voted to cancel more than $19,000 in pay increases approved just the month before by then-interim City Manager Mike Maxemow. The action also effectively removed the power of the city manager to grant any raises.

Maxemow would have received a $7,000 increase. The community development director, community services director, finance director and fire chief would have received annual raises of $1,323 to $6,824.

Commissioners had approved the controversial increases during private meetings with Maxemow less than two weeks before the new city manager, Jill Silverboard, was slated to arrive.

Since then, Silverboard has updated and expanded the salary survey of five area communities that Maxemow used to determine the increased salary ranges and raises.

Silverboard said the new survey showed that both minimum and maximum salary ranges in Madeira Beach are "lower than the survey average." She noted that three employees have reached their currently allowable maximum salaries.

In recommending that the commission approve the new salary schedule, Silverboard said she recognized the difficulty getting true comparisons for similar cities and similar job descriptions.

"Do I feel the data is irrefutable? No. But we have some department heads approaching the conclusion of their careers," she said, possibly alluding to Maxemow, who serves in three positions as head of public works, community services and recreation. He is nearing retirement but could opt to remain another five years.

"The commission probably would have to divide this job into at least two positions or pay a lot more to fill it," Silverboard said.

In general, she said the current $68,000 maximum for a department head "is too low."

Commissioner Len Piotti said he was concerned that if salary ranges were not increased, the city might develop a "turnover problem" or reduced efficiency among its employees.

Although the commission hoped to receive more definitive salary comparisons with similar cities, they agreed that the city manager needed the flexibility to set salaries.

"The reason we have a city manager is to make decisions like this. I'm willing to defer to Jill. It will allow us to retain and motivate good employees," said Commissioner Kevin Connolly.

The commission's action set new maximum salaries for administrators at $56,112 _ a $6,827, or 14 percent, increase _ for Grade 9 (accountant, human resources manager) and $81,113 for Grade 10 (directors of community development, community services and finance, and the fire chief) _ a $12,391, or 18 percent, increase. The minimum levels were left unchanged.

Both minimum and maximum levels for other employees were raised. The lowest-paid workers would start at $8.39 an hour instead of $7.75. Maximum salaries in Grades 1-8 are now $25,314 (previously $23,379) to $51,011 (previously $40,640).

The new salary schedule does not mean that people now holding these positions would automatically move to the top of their grade range.

Silverboard said she has completed performance reviews for all department heads and plans to institute raises in January.

"Most will be in the standard 3 percent range," she said.