Camas City Council members on Monday voted 5-2 to adopt a somewhat contentious set of salary scales for the city’s “non-represented” employees — those who are not part of a union or represented by a collective bargaining agreement.
Concerned that non-represented employees, including the city’s police chief, public works director, fire chief, finance director and library director, had already worked long enough without an updated salary schedule or cost-of-living increase, city leaders made the seven-tier salary scales retroactive to Aug. 1 of this year.
City councilors have grappled for months over issues related to salaries and benefits for the city’s employees, with several councilors questioning an independent review of city employee salaries conducted by the consulting group HR Answers, Inc., earlier this year.
On July 17, the council voted 6-1 to accept the compensation study report and allow city staff to use the research as a tool for negotiating with employee unions. Most councilors made it clear in July that their vote was not a blanket approval of the study’s findings, but rather an acceptance that the city had asked for a salary study and had received the consultants’ report.
Councilors Melissa Smith and Don Chaney have long said they had qualms with the consultant’s study, which included recommendations for increasing or decreasing current salary benchmarks for 68 city of Camas positions. The consultants based their recommendations on dozens of similar positions and wages in other cities and library systems, but some councilors — including Chaney, the city’s former police chief — said they weren’t comfortable with the wide geographical scope of the study, or with the fact that the consultants had also used private-industry data to come up with new salary ranges for public employees.
The new 2017 non-represented salary scales reflect the consultants’ recommendations as well as the input of city staff, who, at the request of the council, came up with a set of salary numbers more closely aligned with public employees in regional cities better matching the city of Camas’ demographics and population.
“I know it’s been a very difficult process,” said City Councilwoman Shannon Turk on Monday night, at the council’s regular meeting. “It’s not perfect, but it’s as good as we can get at this point.”
Turk and other councilors said Monday that they needed to take on part of the blame for the process taking as long as it did.
“I apologize that I didn’t make my assumptions (about the salary study) known,” Turk said. “I think staff did the best (they) could do … and I will do a better job in the next four or five years, when we do this again, because hopefully we won’t wait another 20 years.”
Smith, who, along with Chaney, voted no to the resolution, also apologized to city staff and employees on Monday.
“I also am sorry for not doing a better job,” Smith said. “I found out that (non-represented employees) were asked to hold off on taking a two-percent (increase) in ’16, in the hopes that the salary study would be done in the first quarter … If I’d have known that, if council had known, we would have done a better job.”
Camas Mayor Scott Higgins said Monday night that his comments from a previous council meeting, in which he expressed concerns over the length of the process and its effects on employee morale were not meant to be a jab at city councilors.
“When I made my comments, I was not putting blame on council members,” Higgins said. “All of us believe this was a very difficult issue … and was more complicated than we thought it would be.”
The adopted salary scales include seven tiers for 24 non-represented city employees and boost the salary levels for most. The city’s accounting manager has the biggest bump in compensation, going from a mid-range (tier 4) salary of $6,445 per month in 2016 to $7,999 under the newly adopted salary scale — a nearly 25-percent increase.
Other positions have less dramatic increases: the library director, for instance, went from a tier-four salary of $7,692 per month in 2016 to $8,391 per month under the new salary scales, for a roughly 9-percent increase, and the police captain’s salary increased by just a little more than 2 percent, with a tier-four salary level set at $8,192 per month in 2016 and at $8,391 under the new salary schedule.
Salary levels for at least one position — the city’s human resources assistant — decreased under the new schedule, dropping more than 2 percent and going from a tier-four salary of $5,084 in 2016 to $4,960 in 2017.
To see a full list of the new non-represented employee salary schedules adopted by the city council on Monday night, visit www.ci.camas.wa.us/yourgovernment/minuteagendavideo, click on “meeting details” for the Oct. 2 regular city council meeting, click on “RES 17-014” and then click on “Exhibit A.”