BY STACIE LETT CAIN
The Statesville City Council has approved a 2.5 percent pay increase for all city employees, but that may not be the only increase the city’s first responders will receive this fiscal year.
“It’s a step in the right direction to move us forward to see us competitive with other local departments,” Statesville Fire Chief Andy Weatherman said. “I want to thank the city manager and council for the strides we are making to bring us up to where we need to be.”
In addition to the pay increase, City Manager Ron Smith also asked the council to approve funding for a pay study to compare the earnings of Statesville employees to their counterparts in other regional cities. It would be a four-year process beginning in year one with police and fire.
“One of the winter planning session goals was to give employees raises and until now we haven’t been able to do that due to the pandemic,” Smith said. “Now that we are seeing some improvement we would like to start moving toward that goal.”
The first step toward that goal is to secure a pay review to see where city employees rank in terms of other regional municipal employees. That study comes at a $12,000 price, one that Councilman Steve Johnson had a few concerns with.
“There is a bad habit around here of doing these pay studies and then not doing anything about it,” he said. “I would rather see us do it internally. I think our people are capable of calling around and getting on the internet to see how much a fireman makes in other cities. I don’t think we need to pay somebody a bunch of money to do that.”
And although Smith agreed it could be done internally, the time it would take was problematic. In the end, council voted to approve the study, which Smith estimated would be completed around April of 2021.
“We have no idea what that pay study will say, but we want to be prepared to act on it once we get it back,” Smith explained.
Due to an unexpected savings on health insurance for city employees, the funds would be available to do just that. After funding the 2.5 percent increase to employees throughout the city, a surplus of $513,000 would be left to act on the study.
Steve Johnson asked that the money to pay the study come out of that amount, with the remainder to be used to implement the pay review recommendations. A motion to approve the study passed unanimously.
The council voted unanimously to pass the 2.5 percent pay increase for all city employees with no exceptions, including those who recently were escalated to $15 per hour just months ago. This raise would be retroactive to July 1.