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Fairfield to adjust employee pay structure

The city of Fairfield will revamp its pay grades, which will prevent six employees from receiving pay raises, though they could still get annual bonuses.

A pay study was commissioned last year to review how the city pays its employees, nearly 20 years after the last pay study. Assistant City Manager Greg Preece said the study showed the city needed to update its pay structure for 50 non-union employees.

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“The strategy that was set in 1999 and the direction from council is still relevant today,” Preece said. “And (the study) makes sure we’re fairly paying our staff compared to the market … and making sure the taxpayers are getting the best employees for their tax dollars.”

The compensation study, which cost $26,462, looked at classified and non-classified employees, and results were used during recent negotiations with the city’s five unions.

The city requested salary and benefit information from comparable and neighboring jurisdictions, and of the 18 responding local governments — including Butler County and Butler County Water and Sewer — the big takeaway is that the current pay structure approach shows some positions are overcompensated compared to the market, and a couple employees are underpaid, officials said.

The city last completed a salary study in 1999, and the pay strategy implemented nearly 20 years ago is still relevant, and the performance evaluation system is still working, Preece said, but the pay structure, known as broadbanding, is not working.

“Broadbanding has allowed for some positions to be overcompensated compared to the market,” he said.

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The current broadbanding system classifies one of the 50 non-union city jobs into three bands.

“The plan is to move away from broadbanding to 14 pay grades,” said Preece. “New employees will be hired near the minimum rate with some exceptions based on education and experience.”

The pay grades were determined by a “point factor system” and the market study, he said. No employee will exceed the maximum of their pay grade, which will impact one of the city’s two golf pros, the juvenile diversion counselor, the payroll administrator, the secretary to the mayor (who is assigned to the public works department), the senior network analyst and the streets superintendent.

Preece said the employees have been notified and are accepting of the projected change in pay structure.

“They realize it was an outside opinion, and it looks at the position and not the person,” he said.

Mayor Steve Miller said there is a motivation concern if employees are not eligible for raises.

“When you have good employees that hit the top of their range, I think you still need to find ways to keep them motivated to keep good results,” he said. “And if you can’t provide a raise, there needs to be another type of compensation to acknowledge of what they do and they’re good employee.”

And that will be done with achievement bonuses, said Preece. If they meet their goals, they will be eligible for the bonus, he said.

The employees in positions that are considered underpaid will receive bumps in pay over the next couple years to bring those positions in line with the market, Preece said.

It’s expected the new compensation plan will be presented in March for council’s consideration and approval. If approved, it will take effect in April.

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