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Municipal compensation: Benchmark debate continues

By Staff | Aug 7, 2015

Cape Coral City manager John Szerlag wants city non-bargaining employees to be among the best compensated.

However, some on the city council Wednesday did not endorse that philosophy, saying they believe pay is already competitive.

That was the debate at the council workshop meeting at the Nicholas Annex on Wednesday regarding a Segal Waters presentation on proposed non-bargaining pay, implementation and cost.

Szerlag presented a plan to pay non-bargaining employees in the 75th percentile which he says will attract and retain talent in a competitive municipal market.

Cape Coral looked at eight comparable cities for their benchmarking project. Based on these comparables, the consultant developed pay ranges that would place Cape Coral at the 75th percentile of these cities.

If council agrees, the plan would be implemented in two phases. The first would take place this month and next month as they implement pay ranges and classifications by establishing a new minimum to be set for the final month of the 2015 fiscal year.

Phase two would start addressing pay parity in the 2016 fiscal year, with a full implementation costing about $2.7 million, with $536,000 budgeted for 2016 for non-bargaining pay adjustments.

There are currently 106 non-bargaining employees. If the ranges are adjusted to the 75th percentile, 32 employees would drop below the minimum of their ranges and need to be brought up to the minimum pay of the range. In addition, 89.6 percent of all non-bargaining employees would be at or below the midpoint of these new ranges.

Mayor Marni Sawicki and Councilmember Rana Erbrick expressed concern that the plan doesn’t weed out the poorer performing employees.

“If we’re going to pay above the market, we have to get above-market talent. Throwing money at the position will not help us,” Erbrick said.

Councilmember Derrick Donnell wondered why this was being discussed when non-bargaining employees, who hadn’t had a raise in years, just got a healthy one.

“We haven’t stopped celebrating what we’ve done. Raising pay by 10 percent in one year was Herculean. We moved them from the 50th to 66th percentile,” Donnell said.

Despite her concerns, Sawicki said she would support it.

“We need to do right by our employees. I have no problem with it. We should be able to handle 75 percent,” Sawicki said.

Council also heard from Steve Neff, public works director, who discussed the business plan for the city’s fleet of vehicles. He started by discussing how the city handled its fleet in previous years.

“You can get your masters degree doing a dissertation on what not to do with your fleet. Assets weren’t replaced, software wasn’t updated,” Neff said. “We began making small steps toward improvement, but because of the challenges. We felt we needed a fleet manager.”

Neff and fleet manager Paul Cook looked at what they accomplished in the last 20 months, including asset management (knowing when to ditch and replace an asset), a preventative maintenance program which has led to lower backlogs, fuel management and the cleaning of the fueling site.

Other accomplishments include an inventory of the fleet, the development of a fleet asset management program, and implementation of a fleet auction system which has returned nearly $1 million by selling off old, high-mileage vehicles.

Future goals include improvements on the preventative maintenance system, perform benchmarking against other fleets nationwide and construct an updated professional fleet management facility, all to make Cape Coral a Top 100 fleet.

Councilmember Rick Williams questioned the maintenance of new cars, asking why the city should spend $74 to maintain a car with 4,000 miles on it.”