April 21, 2022 | News

Following pay study, Smyrna council approves $1.3 million in raises

Writer: Hunter Riggall, Marietta Daily Journal

Published April 21, 2022
Yahoo! news from Marietta Daily Journal

This week, the Smyrna City Council unanimously approved pay raises for city employees worth $1.3 million annually, following the results of a pay study commissioned last year.

"That's taking care of the people that take care of y'all and us, and making sure we're competitive in the market that's really tough right now from a labor perspective. So, very good," Mayor Derek Norton said after the vote.

The council's approval comes after the city commissioned the University of Georgia's Carl Vinson Institute of Government to conduct a pay study. The adjustments are aimed at improving recruiting and retention by raising starting pay rates and eliminating compression.

Compression occurs when new employees are hired at more competitive wages, and more senior employees no longer make a comparably higher wage. Boosting pay for tenured staff then eliminates the compression.

The city last November approved raises for the Smyrna Police Department — 35 of the city's 87 officers received pay range minimum raises, and another 66 received adjustments to address compression. The adjustments approved Monday gave raises to city workers across other departments.

According to Carol Sicard, the city's human resources director, the city has 368 full-time staff and 34 permanent part-time staff. The city currently has 57 vacancies.

"It's going to be keeping an eye on our neighbors, making sure we're staying competitive, because we improve retention, we reduce turnover, then that's going to save us a lot of money too, because we have a high cost associated with turnover right now," Sicard said at a work session last week.

There are 122 employees who did not get raises, per Sicard. Many of those are department heads, managers or new employees that were hired at higher wages.

Some part-time employees will also see minimum pay range increases, as well as compression adjustments.

"If you've got a part-timer that's been working with us for 10 years, they should be making more money than the part-timer that started with us yesterday," Sicard said at the work session.

The raises approved Monday have already gone into effect. Their implementation for the current fiscal year, which lasts until the end of June, is being funded with reserve funds. They will be incorporated into the regular budget for the next fiscal year.

The city's last pay study was in 2018. City Administrator Joe Bennett said at the work session that Smyrna had projected an annual budget increase closer to $2 million, so the pay study recommendations "did come in less than we had first estimated."

UGA also provided the city with formulas that can be used in the future to adjust pay ranges and eliminate compression. The idea, Sicard said, is that Smyrna will use that knowledge to implement smaller and more frequent raises going forward.

"We need to look at it every year ... we'll look at the economic indicators and see if those necessitate doing pay scale adjustments," Sicard said at the work session.

Bennett described the raises approved Monday as another step of a multi-phase effort to improve compensation and make the city a more competitive employer. The city plans to look at job descriptions and benefits in the next phase.

"We're really honing in on health insurance, our retirement is a big deal," Sicard said at the work session. "So you know, when it's all said and done, we'll have a nice package for everything."