Salary Study Finds Resort Pay Comparable To Others

OCEAN CITY — Councilman
Jim Hall doesn’t want to know what town employees get paid. He says he wants to
know what they cost.

The long-awaited city
employee compensation study that Hall had been demanding for several months was
presented on Tuesday afternoon at City Hall and left both he and Councilman Joe
Hall rather unsatisfied.

“There wasn’t much in it
if you ask me,” said Hall. “If you are going to make a presentation to the council,
at least put everything in there. You can’t just put that you are paying
someone $10.21 an hour; you have to tell us what they cost after benefits and
step raises and all of that. Let’s tell the whole truth and then we can print
the whole story.”

City Manager Dennis Dare
and Human Resources Director Wayne Evans presented the first of a two-part
comprehensive compensation study, and although they told the council that the
numbers indicate that Ocean City is comparable to the market as far as salary goes,
Joe Hall believed that the study left much to be desired.

“I didn’t get my money’s
worth with that presentation,” said Hall. “I don’t know why that study couldn’t
have been brought to us during budget time, and we expect those guys, who make
the big bucks, to present us with that kind of information. But, that wasn’t a
big buck presentation.”

Evans presented a
“benchmark salary review” and told the council that the second part of the
study would address benefits packages provided to the town’s employees.

The benchmark review
essentially tried to create a snapshot of what a few of the more than 190
full-time general employee titles (not including public safety or part timers)
make in comparison to a handful of other municipalities, competing resorts and
surrounding regions.

“We find that the pay
ranges are comparable to the benchmark data we obtained and that they are
comparable against national, state, and against our competition,” said Evans.

The study compiled
information from Salisbury, Rockville, Frederick, Hagerstown, Annapolis, Bowie
and both Myrtle and Virginia Beach. In addition, the town acquired data from
Wicomico, Worcester, Harford and Washington counties.

Dare had hinted several
weeks ago that the town was finding little luck in their hopes to get
information from local businesses to see if the folks in the private sector
were making comparable money to those in local government jobs.

Dare said on Tuesday
that absolutely zero Ocean City businesses, including the two largest employers
in town, refused or ignored queries to be involved in the study. He has also
argued that comparing how the government operates and the positions needed to
operate the aforementioned local government is much different than the local

“We essentially run 25
different businesses in operating our government,” said Dare, “but we don’t
have chambermaids, or front desk people, or dishwashers.”

Councilwoman Mary Knight
said that if the local business community believes that town employees are
being paid too much, as both Jim and Joe Hall believe, they should have
provided input.

“If they think that,
then why didn’t they give us any information,” said Knight. “What I’m looking
at is facts and not feelings. These are hardcore facts.”

Still, Jim Hall thinks
that Dare fell short and placed zero blame on the private sector’s lack of

“The private sector
didn’t drop the ball because I don’t think they were asked,” said Hall. “It’s
not fair to talk about salaries unless you talk about the entire cost they have
on the town. It’s another tail on the dog that might be breaking the town.”

Hall contests that if
starting salaries and benefits for town employees are not lowered now, that in
the future, rising health care costs and annual increases will essentially put
the resort in financial hardship.

“Now is the perfect time
to do this,” said Hall. “Our workforce is getting older and when they retire in
several years, we are going to save a bunch of money that way when we backfill
their positions at a lower wage, but we need to address this too so we can save
a ton of money without really disrupting the way we are running the ship.”

Councilman Joe Hall, who
was blasted for proposing a 2.5-percent cut of all town employee salaries
during the budget hearings, said that although the local private sector
provided no data, he believes there is a huge difference in what similar
positions are being paid.

“I think that we are
probably 30-percent above the market in what we are paying our employees,” said
Joe Hall, “and I believe that it’s pretty much across the board. I proposed a
2.5-percent reduction in salaries for everyone at budget time, but that didn’t
get anywhere.”

Dare contests that the
council has already addressed the issue, pointing to the $6 million in payroll
and benefit package savings the town has accrued with 90 positions being vacant
as a result of the hiring freeze and the retirement incentive program.

“We have a lot of senior
employees who are at the high end of their pay scale, and they will be retiring
over the next 10 years, and that’s where the huge savings is going to be for
the town,” said Dare. “What we found with this study is that we are paying
people comparable to what other surrounding municipalities are paying people,
and we have to do that if we want to get good people to work for the town of
the Ocean City as we head into the future.”

Health care costs, which
will rise 14.3 percent in FY2011, are a huge concern for the council, and it
has been hinted that the larger concern amongst the voting seven is the
benefits packages given to the town employees rather than the starting

“There are some things
that we could do to adjust both the salaries and the benefits,” said Dare, “but
we will get what we pay for as far as talent goes. But, if healthcare isn’t
killing us now, it will be in a few years so I think it’s a good discussion to
be having now.”