By NICK BUDD
At Thursday’s Hays City Commission work session, Assistant City Manager Paul Briseno presented an agreement with the Service Employees International Union Local 513 that would provide a one-time 2 percent bonus to members of the union.
According to Briseno, the raise would affect approximately 51 employees, and it will cost approximately $41,000. It will be based on weekly pay and will begin with the first payroll period of 2015. The reason behind the bonus, as opposed to a wage increase, is a decrease of sales tax revenues being projected by the city.
“Because of our past practice and our budgeting process, we are able to create a cushion, which we can utilize for a one-time expense such as this bonus,” Briseno said.
Briseno said the city looks at two factors when they consider a pay increase — whether it is warranted and whether the city can afford it. When the city decides whether it is warranted, they look at the consumer price index for the area and the peer communities of similar size and other local employers.
“It’s OK to look at the CPI, but the reality is that it takes into consideration a lot of communities and larger municipalities and it’s really hard to compare, so we take that with a grain of salt,” Briseno said. “But when you look at other peer communities and local employers, there is a warranted need for a slight increase.”
When the city looks at whether an increase is affordable, Briseno said there is “a cushion” between operating revenues and expenses despite the projected 2 percent decrease in sales tax.
“The city does recommend that more of a merit (increase) be given, but due to the fact that we’re in a negative sales tax year, we don’t know what next year will bring, therefore we recommend doing it for just one year,” Briseno said. “If the sales tax were to rebound, we could look at something more permanent the next year. If sales tax were to negative for 2016-2017, it won’t affect us in those future years.”
Over the past two years, he added, the city has given a 4 percent total pay adjustment. The county gave an approximate 5.5 percent pay increase over this year and last.
City Manager Toby Dougherty said the city was in the “middle of the market” when the raise is compared to other entities.
“If we don’t approve this raise, we will be behind the market,” said Dougherty. “I think we do compete with peer communities. A lot of the management staff are not going to look for another job here in Hays; they’re going to look at another city.
“When we do our studies, we look at where do we hire from and where are they going to go if they go somewhere else,” he added, “and it is a mix of local companies and peer communities.”
Commissioners are expected to vote on the SEIU agreement at next week’s regular meeting.