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Cape Council discusses raises, ‘ranges’

By Staff | Apr 3, 2015

Cape Coral City Council got an update Wednesday on the final wave of an employee compensation initiative.

Assistant City Manager Mike Ilczyszyn briefed council on the facts and figures behind the Ordinance 26-15 proposal to raise the salary ranges for the city’s 117 non-bargaining full-time employees and provide a 5 percent pay increase from the 2015 operating budget.

Ilczyszyn’s presentation and subsequent 90-minute discussion took place at the Nicholas Parkway Annex during a special council workshop session, followed by a brief progress update by Public Works staff on the city’s revived street light program.

The ordinance fulfills the last stage of 2015 implementation as the city gives pay raises to employees officials say have not received an increase since 2008. Non-bargaining employees received a 5 percent pay increase in October 2014 followed by the Police, Fire and General union contract negotiations that included pay range shifts as well as 5 percent base pay and retroactive pay increases.

This “last piece of the puzzle” addresses a pay range shift of 10 percent that would affect 19 employees whose base pay is at or within 10 percent of the bottom of the pay range. Upon passage, the ordinance would cost the city $41,214 to move those 19 employees to the new range minimum. Employees more than 10 percent above minimum would not get that increase, just the overall 5 percent increase contained in the ordinance.

The benchmarking study on the market average pay ranges with eight other similar cities in Florida indicated Cape Coral’s minimum was 13.7 percent below the market average. Shifting the pay range 10 percent leaves the non-bargaining employees still 3.7 percent below average, according to the study.

“No range adjustment was done in October when non-bargaining employees got a 5 percent raise,” said Ilczyszyn. “All three bargaining unit negotiations included a pay range adjustment. This takes care of that for non-bargaining. The key point here is non-bargaining is the last component of phase one.”

Mayor Marni Sawicki and Councilmember Rana Erbrick said they could not support the ordinance because it did not go far enough to address the employees at the bottom of the ranges. They also did not favor pay raises for those at the middle and top of the ranges.

“We still need to vote as a council on the 75th percentile goal,” said Erbrick. “I don’t think we ever did that. The city manager has chosen that goal and is leading us down that path. We need to set the goal for staff to follow. All the background work is going that way, so council needs to set the goal or scale it back.”

Ilczyszyn also addressed the 75th percentile cost issue (which would mean the city would pay its employees within the top 25 percent of comparable cities) using June 2014 as an arbitrary date.

“To reach the 75th percentile goal, with pay parity included the annual cost to the city would be $23 million a year over a three to five-year target window,” said Ilczyszyn. “To adjust just employee salaries to 75 percent of market would cost $3.7 million. You’ve already made advancements on those numbers through the police, fire and general union increases this year. You see the effect of the pay parity part of the equation which includes YOS (years of service) adjustments.”

Council members Rick Williams and John Carioscia agreed that the ordinance finishes off phase one for those 117 employees, but that the goal can be dealt with in the next phase.

In other business:

The street light program for 2015 was funded with $100,000 in the operating budget passed by council last fall. It is being carried out on the basis of three priorities. School bus stops with stops before or after daylight hours on divided roadways with higher speeds and local roads is the top priority. The second is major road intersections followed by major road segments.

To date, 19 street lights have been installed, mostly in the northwest section of the city, at priority one locations. The expenditure so far has been $14,900 for the fixtures installed by LCEC crews and the monthly energy cost for the remainder of the fiscal year.

Entering phase two targets county school bus stops with stops before or after daylight hours as coordinated with the Lee County School District. These stops are designated as semi-permanent stops. The district also provided locations where buses make multiple stops before or after daylight hours.

Staff will estimate costs for approximately 70 proposed locations and select the maximum number of new lights to be installed at the top two priority locations to best utilize the remaining budget funds of $85,100 for the rest of the budget cycle.

Councilmember Lenny Nesta suggested staff take into consideration the bus stops for city charter schools as well when selecting locations. Public Works Director Steve Neff agreed with the request.

Councilmember Richard Leon asked if staff is looking into solar power for street lights or other alternative energy sources.

“The sodium lights we use come through LCEC,” replied Neff. “It has been shown that they are the only real alternative. They are being installed on poles with the power right there.”

“I will not vote for any more lights if we don’t find an alternative energy source,” said Leon.

Neff said staff would look into what’s available whether it be solar or LED sources and see if it is feasible and cost effective.

The city’s street lighting program was suspended in 2009 due to budgetary constraints and was resurrected for 2015.